Post Mortem

Poll season in India

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/7/2019 12:13:52 PM IST

 Perceptions vary—the test of largest democracy or simply the dance of democracy in the world or celebration of democracy in a multi-party in India’s political system or a festival that has mix of lies, fake news, exaggerations, theatrics, biopic, rhetoric and war of words. Hence India is in the midst of height of festival of campaigning and polling. This time polling is being programmed in phased manner and the whole exercise unfolds numerous intricacies and complexities and in that it’s interesting to observe and note what the candidates that include ministers and the Prime Minister are saying. As I watch the TV debates and read the speeches and counter-speeches our politicians and candidates utter in the periodicals and the dailies, I’m reminded of George Orwell.

George Orwell captured the narratives rhetoric and slogans that the politicians use candidly which he brings to the fore in his book 1984 and the phrase he invoked: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”  It’s true that when the conflicts and wars are justified for the sake of ‘peace’—all in the name of ‘peace’. The wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were justified by the Americans and the British and NATO allies. Conflicts in Middle East, within and between regions and continents are endorsed and rationalized—all ‘in the name of peace’. Populists use ‘surgical strikes’, Nukes and host of others against the neighboring countries all in the name of ‘security’, and ‘safety’—all in the name of protecting the ‘sovereignty of the nation’. 

The phrases Orwell use are apt. Electorates and citizens are kept in the dark—all in the ignorance and for the politicians it’s bliss. Lies and counter-lies, news in the social media and many TV channels are twisted in such ways none knows whether they are true or fake and so citizens and electorates are caught in the climate that utters ‘ignorance is strength’. And another phrase Orwell uses is “Freedom is slavery”—which is also nuanced in such a way what do you do with the freedom—which presupposes your freedom is subject to certain conditionality. Therefore freedom as a concept is relative and conditional, and never absolute. Benevolent dictators or even benevolent democrats say that what do you do with freedom if it does not take care of the basic essential of existence and so freedom of expression and host of others are just illusionary concepts.   

Popular leaders and those who want to get connected with the electorates particularly the poor claim that they work for the poor and their development. Take for instance, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who used the slogan “Indira Hatao” and “Garibi Hatao” and also coined a phrase “India is Indira and Indira is India”.  In tune to this, the present PM Modi used his name in his electioneering more than anything. Classic example is when a section of the electorates were asked to whom they would be voting in unison they said for Modi and hardly have they uttering the name of the party—BJP. When the journalist in their interview ask they retort back by saying: “party is bigger than individuals”, but in reality their charisma wins the elections and party takes the back-stage.

Taking former Prime Minsiter Indira Gandhi and the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi as parallel examples since they hail from two opposing political ideologies and parties, Indira Gandhi used “eradicate poverty” and Modi in 2014 pledged to serve “the poorest of the poor”, primarily eradicating corruption black money and so on—and take the country to new path of development thereby transforming the country into ‘New India’. Accordingly PM Modi initiated Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act (MANKEGA) that provides jobs and minimum wages for those living below the poverty line. On similar vein, the President of the Congress Party Rahul Gandhi pledged to the electorates that if elected to power he promised that poverty shall be completely eradicated from India and so he introduced a minimal amount (livable) for those who live in abject poverty.

Contrary to these poll promises the ground reality is the gap between the rich and the poor which is widening indicating and thus implying that the inequality is on the increase.  About 10 per cent of the richest Indians garnered 73 per cent of the nation’s wealth and 58 per cent of it was in the hands of ‘one per cent’ (which the world average is 50 per cent).  The politicians use the ‘poor’ for their poll planks by invoking ‘poverty’ till they get elected and once in power they abandon the promises made and what they said in their political manifestoes. Hence, Orwellian quotes and phrases continue to shed new meanings and new insights. For instance, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Just a fascinating one so well constructed.

This is what happening in the recent polls. The top leaders of the political parties have hit the ground zero low in hitting at the opponents in such manners and below the belts that the electorates have never experienced. Thoughts and language go together, and if thoughts are not moderated they eventually become dreadful and thus corroded and so the delivery of the thoughts by way of language becomes so horrifying and demeaning. Orwell is right who cleverly fused thought and language dynamic and both are integral in formation and application. 

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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