How the absence of innate decency in public discourse hurts us
Lexington, in his latest column in the Economist, points to early disquiet with Obama’s presidency in the US. He says, and I quote:
“criticisms that has been mounting since Mr Obama won the election—that he is a big government socialist (or fascist) who wants to take people’s money away and crush their freedoms……
What is clear is that the rapid replacement of Bush-hatred with Obama-hatred is not healthy for American politics. ….. today polarisation is almost instant, thanks in part to the growing role of non-negotiable issues such as abortion in American politics, in part to the rise of a media industry based on outrage, and in part to a cycle of tit-for-tat demonisation. This is not only poisoning American political life. It is making it ever harder to solve problems that require cross-party collaboration such as reforming America’s health-care system or its pensions.”
Could Lexington have been talking about the Indian polity?
As our country goes to polls, our leaders have been busy venting their spleen about each other in full public and media glare As Advani calls Manmohan “Nikamma” and “weak” and Manmohan responds with interest, one can only watch with dismay. Modi and Priyanka Gandhi have been bandying words like “budiya” and “gudiya”.. one dreads the prospect of further poetical riposte on the same lines! It may not even stop at relatively harmless “kutiya” once the Hindi heartland is aroused.
I do not know about you, but I think the wounds caused by Manmohan and Advani to each other will take a long time to heal thereby virtually ruling out bipartisanship on most issues when the next government is formed with either of these gentlemen at the helm. Which means that we are facing the prospect of another few years of petty politicking, futile posturing and scoring off each other. If you are holding your breath for action on any of the pressing national issues requiring parties to agree; be it labour reform or anti-terrorism measures, hold no longer. Action won’t happen, in the absence of consensus. It is sad that such urbane and elderly statesmen take recourse to language that in the US is used by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.
However, Advani and Manmohan are unlikely to sit on the tresury benches together. But, given the predictions from most of the opinion polls, almost every politician in India today is as likely to be friend or foe with any other politician from another party, once the results are declared. So, Congress can come to power with the support of Laloo- Paswan- Mulayam or, wait.. didn’t Pranab and Laloo’s intemperate face-off yesterday kind of rule it out?
We have now several groupings: Congress-NCP, BJP, Left Parties- Mayawati-BJD, Laloo-Mulayam-Paswan (LMP), Mayawati… they have all made fiery speeches and personal attacks against each other. Left has ruled out supporting a Congress government or a BJP government. Mayawati has not ruled out anything but then, who can trust her fidelity for more than 3 months? LMP will not support BJP and can not work with the Left parties unless the Left jettisons Mayawati.
The post-election arithmetic will be interesting enough (or challenging enough, depending on your viewpoint). The politicians, by open name calling and painting themselves into an ideological corner, are all but ruling out stability in the post-election scenario.