Lok Sabha election 2014: Thank God, the episode of abuses is over

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The campaigning for the sixteenth Lok Sabha election came to an end on Saturday, May 10. A welcome relief for almost every individual related to electoral politics of India, directly or indirectly. The constant personal attacks on opponent, often violating furthest limits of decency, had been tiring. Particularly, the terror of words that Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee unleashed against BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi by crossing all limits of civility towards the conclusion of the campaigning was unprecedented, to say the least.

Why filthy personal attacks a trend in Indian politics?

But why is making filthy personal attacks an unwritten law in Indian politics? If the new-age India is talking about getting rid of caste- and religion-based politics, why it also doesn't talk in the same length about the politics of profanity?

Though there can be no justification for such a trend, there is definitely a reason why this trend has dominated India's political life for decades.

Individuals bigger than parties

In India, politics is centred on individuals more than institutions. From the local party strongman to the top leader of a party, Indians mostly identify a face with the party. Most of the major regional parties in India are individual-centric and they have little identity apart from those individuals. In case of the two national parties also, there have been instances where individuals have become bigger than the party. The Congress was second-fiddle to Indira Gandhi once and now the BJP is playing a similarly secondary role to Narendra Modi.

This little distinction between the individuals and their parties has made the leading face of the party the prime target of the opponent, which is also an individual-centric entity. Democratic differences among the parties remain a secondary issue.

Political personalities identified more by personal factors

There is another angle to the story. In India, the construction of the personality in public life is made more by the blocks of his personal life than his or her political leanings. This is the practice since the days of the Mahatma whose way of life and personal beliefs played a major role in shaping the public perception about him.

Today, the same is applicable for leaders like Mamata Banerjee and Narendra Modi. The former is judged by her simple living more than her political ideology, if at all there is any. Modi, on the other hand, is a prisoner of an anti-Muslim image since he has a RSS background. The general perception of Modi as a ‘butcher' or ‘death merchant' doesn't get blurred because he belongs to a political school which believes in majoritariansim.

Even repeated clean chits from courts and investigative agencies don't convince the general perception about him.

The phase of abuses might be over but that of unexpected U-turns may not be far

And politicians refuse to let these general perceptions go unused when it comes to attacking the opponents. There is little ideological relevance when the Mamatas and Mulayams attack Modi (Chandrababu Naidu and Ram Vilas Paswan have already proved that) and the post-May 16 scenario could reveal more such stories.

But even if individuals become targets of attack, should the attacks be below the belt as it is witnessed day in and day out?

Cut-throat competition for political resources makes it worse

If decline in humanitarian concerns were believed to be the reason behind the undesirable attacks, they have been intensified more by the cut-throat competition for grabbing political resources.

The emergence of Modi is one of the big reasons why political leaders have resorted to violent attack of words. Regional satraps like Mamata, Mulayam, Nitish Kumar and Jayalalithaa, who have national ambitions irrespective of what they say, feel threatened to see Modi making advancements into their territory for that could upset their national dreams and they resort to the extreme form of attacks out of desperation. These four regional leaders are all the more desperate because they have been successful in eclipsing enemies in their own states and cannot digest the evolution of an outsider, who was also a regional satrap even a few days ago.

We will certainly witness U-turns post May 16 from many of the unexpected quarters but that is how Indian politics functions. Electoral politics and parliamentary politics are not synonymous in this country.

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