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Run-up to assembly polls 2022 already dangerously divisive

The Punjab elections seem to be the topmost priority in the minds of those who rule us—the NDA-BJP combine that controls all the levers of power in the government.

Published: 19th September 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th September 2021 03:08 PM   |  A+A-

For representational purposes

The Punjab elections seem to be the topmost priority in the minds of those who rule us—the NDA-BJP combine that controls all the levers of power in the government. First, there was special coverage of Sikhs being evacuated from Kabul, then another gentleman from this community was appointed the Chair of the Minorities Commission — a ‘historic’ first, we were reminded. This was swiftly followed by the appointment of a new governor for Uttarakhand. Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh is undoubtedly an excellent choice. The hill state has an inheritor to a martial tradition. The Kumaon and Garhwal Regiments have a most distinguished record on the battlefield and recruitment in paltan has been the traditional dream of able-bodied youngsters in the hills. In the past, both the BJP and the Congress have handed over the command of the state government to Generals. The AAP has nominated a retired Colonel as its CM face. But we digress. 

Gen Singh has served as the Vice-Chief of Army and participated in several rounds of negotiation with his Chinese counterparts to reduce tensions on the LOC/LAC. He is recognised as an expert on strategic matters related to China and no one needs a reminder that Uttarakhand shares a volatile border where China and Nepal meet India. What is less known is that Gen Singh is a man of peace and deep spirituality. He recites the Mahamrityunjaya mantra with as much evocative resonance as he does the soothing Gurubani.

Perfect choice for Devbhumi where the Kedarnath and Hemkunt Sahib are located. It’s only the timing that seems to be too much of a coincidence. Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh is having to fight a battle within his own ranks thanks to the blundering leadership that styles itself pompously as the ‘High Command’. Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia G can’t quite make up their mind to let the wannabe skipper of the Congress team Siddhu captaining its team in forthcoming elections. 

Elections are due in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat as well. There has been no dearth of faux pas and surprises on these two battlefronts either. There was the strange case of a full page ad celebrating the amazing achievements of CM Adityanath illustrated with a collage that included a flyover, tall buildings from Kolkata not to forget the tiny yellow cab that is the signature of that city. This could have been overlooked as the goof-up by some lazy creative artist at the PR agency appointed by the UP government had not the newspaper that claims to practice journalism of courage not gratuitously issued an apology and expressed regrets for this inadvertent lapse.

Strange indeed are the ways of newspaper publishers and TV channel managers these days. Many a reader was left scratching his/her head trying to understand what was the newspaper apologising for? Unless, the front page ad had been outsourced to its space-selling division as a design, publish and bill operation. It’s still some months to the election in the largest state of the Union and surely many more advertorials and infotainment features are on the way. Or was it a case of leaning on the proprietors to accept the role of a scapegoat to let someone else off the hook? 

Barely had the titters sparked by this inadvertent error subsided that the breaking news diverted our attention to Gujarat. CM Rupani, who seemed firmly in the saddle, announced his resignation to make way for a rookie MLA no one had heard of. Handpicked by the PM and the party president he was believed to be the confidant of the duo. Rupani is the fourth BJP CM who has lost out in the musical chairs game. 

In all this commotion no one is talking of the by-election in Bhawanipur in West Bengal where CM Mamata ‘Di’ is in fray. Ever since the ‘Didi o Didi’ tune misfired and subsequently there has been ‘ghar wapasi’ at an alarming rate from the BJP to the TMC, the largest political party in the word seems reluctant to look East. 

Hardly anyone in the major political parties in India seems to be aware that no democracy can survive on elections alone. Inflation, unemployment, break-down in law and order, human rights violations and crimes against women, Dalits and minorities are all issues that can change the tide against the most charismatic leader. Some surveys claim that the Indian PM enjoys popular ratings higher than any world leader while others indicate that there has been a significant dip since the second wave of Covid. The UP CM is a distant second to NaMo in his tough image and mass appeal. Unfortunately, his choice of words is getting increasingly distressing. Full of innuendos, they seem targeting one particular community blurring the already fuzzy line between a joke in bad taste and hate speech. Emboldened by no judicial pushback this only encourages the vigilantes. The run-up to the election campaign is already dangerously divisive.  pushpeshpant@gmail.com

Pushpesh Pant

Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University



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