The ‘last lap’ is the most difficult for all candidates in any election. There are many a proverbial slip between the cup and the lip. The tide may turn suddenly—one false step or careless statement can have fatal consequences. It has happened in past and no amount of tweaking an algorithm can ensure that what the opinion polls and exit polls are predicting will come to pass. Butterflies suddenly start fluttering in the stomach in a distressing manner and the carefully composed smiles are displaced by scowls.
From Amethi, Azamgarh, Varanasi and Kannauj to Kadapa, this trend is visible—even the ‘champs’ are at least momentarily troubled by intimations of political mortality.
What has left us more than a little disturbed is the media attention lavished on a handful of ‘high-profile constituencies’ and the utter neglect of the rest. Surely, the destinies of this nation of a billion and quarter are not going to be decided in perpetuity by the whims and fancies of scions of a dozen-odd dynasties. It’s good old Farooq sahib in Kashmir and Sonia-Priyanka-Rahul-Maneka-Varun and the Yadav Clan in Uttar Pradesh; in Bihar descendants of Babu Jagjivan Ram, nucleus family of Laluji and scion of Paswan seem to leave no space for any first generation contender. Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Odisha are no exception. The forces arrayed in this dubious battle display a fair sprinkling of ‘royalty’ closely related by birth or marriage. It is Badals in Punjab, and Jagan Mohan Reddy versus splintered inheritors of NTR legacy in Andhra; Karunanidhi’s strife-stricken family is synonymous with DMK in Tamil Nadu. In tiny Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the story isn’t any different. Be it the young and dashing Anurag Thakur or ‘Raja’ Veer Bhadra Singh’s wife, the number of charmed families that are overflowing with talent is not small. CM Harish Rawat’s wife is in the fray along with Vijay Bahuguna’s son who has earlier come a cropper. This list is by no means exhaustive—it’s merely illustrative.
The rise of a ‘brash and crude’ challenger has threatened all those ensconced in power, but it has struck sheer panic among the ranks of the ‘ruling’ Congress. Ever since Priyanka was propelled to the battlefront, Rahul has paled into the background. Few are interested in that lacklustre sideshow. The new release may not prove to be a blockbuster, but thankfully it has rid us of the long-running flop. Priyanka has predictably accused Modi of debasing the level of political
discourse. Her mother has been blunter. The minions of the family have fallen over each other in display of loyalty and hurled
choicest of abuses at BJP’s PM candidate and certainly not raised the level of this discourse.
‘Invasion’ of his ‘privacy’ has for the moment left the usually irrepressible Digvijaya Singh a bit tongue-tied, and we are greatly intrigued by the inexplicably inaudible Sushma Swaraj. We must confess our admiration for Arun Jaitley who has manfully coped with the verbal volleys unleashed by opponents. In this din what has gone unnoticed is the unconditional apology tendered by Manish Tewari to Nitin Gadkari—for some baseless offensive remarks made in the past. It is perhaps worth underlining that the loss of civility and alienation from parliamentary language had begun much before the present elections.
Mulayam and Maya have come off worst in the verbal exchanges during this campaign. Maya has chosen to follow for most part the strategy of ‘thundering silence’ hoping to strike terror in the hearts of her opponents by suggesting that the invisible iceberg is surely on the move and will unerringly sink the Titanic, be it flying the colours of BJP or SP; Mulayam on the other hand has opted for firing unguided missiles from his mouth that have proved more deadly for friends than his foes. Truth be told, it has always been impossible to decide ‘who is who’ in Netaji’s constantly shifting list. Jayalalithaa has kept her distance from Modi and BJP in a more tactful manner than Mamata Didi who seems to have thrown all caution to wind. But both the ladies are capable of turning startling summersaults, so their harsh words make us reach for the saltcellar.
What we have witnessed in recent months and are witnessing shouldn’t surprise anyone. From the beginning it has been a no-holds-barred battle for both sides—the BJP and the Congress—who have too much on stake. The sidekicks—sorry, alliance partners and supporters from the sidelines—too have echoed their supreme leaders.
When the going gets tough the ‘tough’ not only get going, they turn unabashedly rough in a desperate last-ditch effort to hide that inside their hard exteriors lie organs made of substance softer than jelly. Beware, the fire in the breath is only to belch out smoke to blind the people. firstname.lastname@example.org
Pushpesh Pant is a former professor of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi