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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 19 New Delhi April 27, 2019

Beyond Poll Rhetoric

Monday 29 April 2019, by SC



As we go to press, Varanasi is witnessing a mega road-show of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the temple town before the Ganga arati in the evening; the PM will file his nomination for the Lok Sabha polls from the city tomorrow morning. At the same time, as is the norm these days, during the road-show the media, mainly the electronic media, went out of its way to ridicule the Congress on the belated decision of party General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra not to contest from Varanasi despite having initially expressed her desire to do so to give a tough challenge to the current head of the Union Government.

If one dispassionately ponders over Priyanka’s eventual decision, one would find that the move is not a sign of weakness on the part of Priyanka or her party, as is being made out by some sections of the media to curry favour with the ruling party at the Centre, but a highly mature stand conditioned by the necessity to reinforce the Congress’ election campaign in the entire eastern UP which Priyanka is presently engaged in. If she had stuck to her original decision to contest from Varanasi she would have not been able to carry out that onerous but imperative task.

The election process is now in full swing. Polling has already concluded for over half of the total Lok Sabha seats with the end of the third phase last Tuesday (April 23) that recorded an overall 66 per cent turnout over 15 States and Union Territories.

Yet what is noteworthy is that the level of the campaign this time has declined to an all-time low. All sections of the contestants and political leaders are responsible for such a development. Yet the PM, the principal campaigner of the ruling party, and his lieutenant, the BJP General Secretary, must bear the prime responsibility for this situation. What is also most significant, this decline in the level of campaign has struck a body blow to our democracy. This is the grim reality which we cannot overlook or ignore.

In the midst of such a dismal scenario there is a ray of hope. A young scholar from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kanhaiya Kumar, is contesting the polls from a constituency in Bihar which had at one time been described as the Lenin- grad of India due to its communist base. The point is not the politics Kanhaiya subscribes to but the maturity with which he is able to put forward his viewpoint. It is he who was incarcerated in prison on the specious allegation of having resorted to anti-national utterances; but the charge was later found to be totally baseless. It is Kanhaiya who is calling for not just Left unity but a broad secular-democratic unity to resist the Narendra Modi dispensation’s attempts to alter the Constitution that the PM and his followers are openly advocating.

Beyond the poll rhetoric, it is essential to compre-hend what is at stake today. The defence of our democracy, secularism and Constitution is of utmost importance in the light of whatever is happening now. That indeed is what Kanhaiya Kumar has been highlighting. Regardless of the outcome of these elections Kanhaiya’s position on this score is of inestimable value.

April 25 S.C.

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