When political discourse hit an all-time low; From Duryodhana to Anarkali
New Delhi, May 20: Reopening wounds, referencing popular culture to deliver insults and sexist jibes, it was all par for the electoral course in a season that tumbled to a name-calling close in a medley of 'chowkidar’, 'bhrashtachari’, Aurangzeb, Mogambo and more.
It was not about one party or one politician in the just concluded electoral season of many an epithet, making it difficult to determine whether it was tongues that were sharper or the minds behind the campaigns. The humble watchman came into prominence with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his party making 'chowkidar chor hai' the centre of their campaign to hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The BJP was quick to react and ran a 'main bhi chowkidar' campaign to counter the grand old party. There was some humour but mostly vitriol as the war of words hit new lows through the seven-phase elections that ended on Sunday. Malegaon blast accused and BJP’s Bhopal candidate Pragya Singh Thakur's remarks targeting Mumbai attacks martyr Hemant Karkare and referring to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse as a patriot reopened chapters of hurt, contemporary and historical. Thakur alleged that Karkare, who was killed along with two other senior police officers while fighting terrorists during the 26/11 attacks, falsely implicated her in the blast case.
"He died of his karma. I told him, he will be destroyed. I told him his entire dynasty will be erased," Thakur said.
Sharp criticism from across the political spectrum, including her own party, led to her issuing an apology. Thakur’s comments on Godse, followed by remarks from two other BJP leaders, also led to a reprimand from the party and the prime minister saying he would not be able to forgive her. Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan and his one-time party colleague Jaya Prada, who recently joined the BJP and was contesting against him in Rampur, were engaged in a bitter and unseemly verbal spat.
Addressing an election rally, Khan said, "I brought her (Jaya Prada) to Rampur. It took you 17 years to identify her real face but I got to know in 17 days that she wears khaki underwear." Khan was barred by the Election Commission from campaigning for 72 hours over his remarks. The matter did not end there.
At a public meeting, Khan's son Abdullah Azam threw the "Anarkali" barb at Jaya Prada. "Ali bhi humarey, Bajrang Bali bhi humarey, lekin Anarkali nahi chahiye (Both Ali and Bajrang Bali are ours, but we don't want Anarkali)," he said. Anarkali was believed to be a famous courtesan in Mughal emperor Akbar's court who had an affair with his son Jehangir. Jaya Prada also had her brush with controversy when she talked about Khan's "X-ray eyes".
"Considering the comments Azam Khan makes against me, (BSP chief) Mayawati, his x-ray like eyes will also stare at you," she said at a public meeting. On his part, Modi kicked up a storm when he trained his guns on the late Rajiv Gandhi. At a rally in Uttar Pradesh, Modi attacked Rahul Gandhi and said, "Your father was termed Mr Clean by his courtiers, but his life ended as bhrashtachari (corrupt) no 1." It was, for many, a recall to a series of Bollywood hits, including "Coolie No 1", “Hero No 1”, “Aunty No 1”. Modi was himself at the receiving end of several attacks. Mayawati alleged that he "abandoned his wife for political gains", that women in the BJP are scared of their husbands meeting the PM fearing they might "abandon their wives like him" and that he deserves the abusive language used against him by the opposition.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar stirred up a controversy when he revisited his "neech" jibe against the PM. "Remember how I described him (Modi) on 7 December 2017? Was I not prophetic?" he wrote in an article. Congress' Sanjay Nirupam tagged Modi "modern day Aurangzeb" for demolishing temples in Varanasi "in the name of corridors". Some vitriolic remarks also had communal overtones with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath being banned from campaigning for 72 hours. Adityanath dubbed the Muslim League a "green virus" and suggested that Hindu and Muslim voters are in an "Ali-Bajrang Bali" contest.
Giriraj Singh, the BJP candidate against Kanhaiya Kumar for Bihar's Begusarai seat, called Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal part of the "tukde tukde gang", a reference to the JNU students who were booked for allegedly raising anti-India slogans. And then in the last week of the elections Union minister Anantkumar Hegde added to the list by calling Rahul Gandhi a moron for his tweet that 'Modilies' is a new word in the English dictionary.
There were several asides in a lighter vein, but ended up creating a row nonetheless. Rahul Gandhi lampooned the prime minister, saying "Modilie" is a new word in dictionary and tweeted a screenshot of a photoshopped page of an English dictionary explaining the meaning of the word. Oxford Dictionaries clarified the word "Modilie" is "fake" and does not exist in any of its dictionaries.
In another case of humour creating controversy, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi referred to Azam Khan as 'Mogambo' following which an FIR was reportedly lodged against him. Mogambo is the iconic villain from the Bollywood blockbuster "Mr. India".