Political debates need not be crud or lack courtesy

As the polling process reaches crucial phases in 2019, it looks more and more like 2004 instead of 2014. There is no wave and no general trend. Every State has its own tie ups and its own peculiarities. In some cases it changes from region to region within state and such differences go down to constituencies in few cases. As such it is near certainty that contests will be closer, margins smaller in the final outcome.

On one hand we have BJP which is depending to a large extent on the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, RSS cadre and emotional appeal of nationalism and polarisation on religious lines. On the other hand Congress is hoping to cross the goal post with the help of distress among farmers, lack of jobs and victimisation of Harijans and minorities. No one expects any single party to get a majority on its own. The best hope is a coalition Government as has been the norm before 20014.

Brij Bhardwaj

The big difference, however, is lack of courtesy, crude language, frequent violations of Moral code of conduct and attempt to seek votes in name of religion, caste and community. The Election Commission had a tough job looking at large number of complaints. The Election Commission has been slow in responding to complaints against senior leaders like Prime Minister. The Commission has faced lot of criticism for its shortcomings and failure to live upto the standards set by it in the past.

It seems that the change from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Narendra Modi in BJP and from Indira Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi has made the contest ugly. Both sides have been hitting below the belt. The debates between political parties look more and more like street squabbles instead of a dignified debate by senior political leaders who are to occupy top position in country and provide good governance. Gone are the times when a senior leader like first Prime Minister of India Mrs Jawahar Lal Nehru could compliment Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a young face of BJP for his speech.

It was also time when Mr Vajpayee on becoming ForeignMinister under Janata Dal Government would look for inspiration at picture of Nehru in his office which was prominently displayed. One day he found it missing and asked his staff about it. By his tone staff got the hint and picture was put back. It was also time when Mr Vajpayee compared Mrs Gandhi with Durga after liberation of Bangladesh. This tradition was followed when Prime Minister Narsimha Rao asked Mr Vajpayee who was in opposition to represent India’s case on Kashmir in United Nations.

One also recalls when Mrs Gandhi personally intervened when some in  her party wanted to  attack some leaders in opposition  for their personal life. One can recall numerous instances of good debates, courtesy shown and results produced by logic instead of shouting or name calling. I saw mighty leaders like Defence Minister Krishna Menon, T T Krishnamachari and K.D Malviya shown the door because of strong facts put across.

Leaders like Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, Mr Nath pai, Mr H.V Kamath and Mr George Fernandez did not have to shout to be heard. There is lot of talent  in current Lok Sabha, but they get no chance as most of the space is  occupied by shouting brigade, walk outs  and unruly behaviour.

I was among those who witnessed  the working of Parliament from sixties onwards can not help but point out that example has to be set by leaders who are not living upto the  standards expected because of the post they occupy. Parliament is not a place for oratory only but for logic and facts. Indian democracy has survived because we hold elections regularly and there is smooth change over of Government. More is needed by developing democrating temperament.

Respect for opposition and Parliament rules what is the point in having two houses if controversial legislation is to be pushed through by disguising them as money bills so that Rajya Sabha is unable to discuss them. One hopes that things will change for better in coming days as we have a generation change in Parliament’s rules prevail.

 (Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)