Gandhinagar, Nov 22: There is nothing new about it. Every time we approach an election, real issues always take a backstage and 'strange' topics drive election campaigns of the political parties.
A similar cycle of events is taking place ahead of the all-important Gujarat Assembly elections, scheduled on December 9 and 14.
Initially, everyone was discussing Patidar agitation, Dalit atrocities and anger of the business community due to the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to name a few subjects, before the poll season in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state.
Now, it's the series of alleged sex tapes involving Hardik Patel, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) leader, and controversies surrounding the upcoming Bollywood film, Padmavati, that have become hot election debates.
The opposition Congress has alleged that the BJP is trying to "manufacture trivial" issues to divert the public's attention from real subjects that are actually affecting the lives of voters of the state.
However, the Congress is equally guilty of repeating the same 'mistakes' of the BJP by jumping into debates involving "non-issues".
Congress general secretary in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot criticised the BJP on Tuesday over creating a ruckus in the state ahead of the Assembly polls.
Speaking to ANI, Gehlot said, "Just to create a ruckus in the state, Narendra Modi and his party members have created disturbances in Gujarat over issues like Hardik Patel (sex CD), on film Padmavati and so many others. All this has been done to divert the attention of the people."
"On looking at them (the BJP), the Gujarat people have got an idea as to what the BJP is up to and to what extent they could go to create a nuisance. I am sure after this the public will support us and not them," he added.
A political analyst said that the Congress too is creating "ruckus" in the state as several of its leaders, like those from the BJP, have spoken in support of those protesting against the period drama, Padmavati, based on the life of queen Padmini from Chittor, Rajasthan.
The protest against the Sanjay Leela Bhansali's film was started by a fringe group--Shri Rajput Karni Sena--after it vandalised the sets of the film and slapped the director during the shooting of Padmavati in Jaipur in January.
Thereafter, members of Shri Rajput Karni Sena once again destroyed the sets of the film in Maharashtra. After those two incidents, protests against the film almost went silent.
As the makers of the film released the trailer of Padmavati and declared its release date, protests over the film once again started and this time it got ample support from both the Congress and the BJP.
The protesters of the film, including descendants of Rajput rulers, stated that the film hurts the sentiments of the community and the Hindus in general by distorting historical facts.
However, historians are yet to confirm whether queen Padmini actually existed or not and the film has been inspired by a 16th-century poem.
"The entire Padmavati issue is to consolidate the Rajput and Hindu groups' votes ahead of the Gujarat polls. Padmavati is a big budget Bollywood film and easy to attract people's attention by protesting against it.
"Thus, the BJP and the Congress are openly supporting the goons of right-wing groups who are threatening to kill the actors and director of the film," said the political analyst on condition of anonymity.
Earlier also sex tapes allegedly involving Hardik made 'big' headlines. Just a month before the polls, tapes allegedly showing Hardik with women and drinking beer went viral on social media.
The young Patidar leader himself has laughed off the tapes saying "I am yet to marry and I am not impotent". The 23-year-old politician-activist blamed the BJP for infringing upon his privacy and threatened legal action.
"The BJP is behind these videos that violate my right to privacy. They love to peep into the personal lives of others. As their 22-year-old Vikas (development agenda) stands exposed, they are trying to expose a 23-year-old boy. I will consult my lawyers and file a complaint soon against perpetrators of the sex CD," Hardik told Times of India.
Hardik added that the "video attack" is nothing but character assassination. But that is not going to "adversely impact the Patidar agitation for OBC quota".
"Even if I am a bad person, it does not have a bearing on our demand for quota. Our agitation will continue and is stronger now," he said.
Now, we have to see how much the Padmavati row and Hardik sex tapes would have an impact on voters' decision to choose their leaders in the upcoming Gujarat elections.