Friday, August 31, 2012

War of words gets personal and dirty as elections near

“Have hun chhutto chu, lapodshankh vishe bolish (Now I am free and I will speak about the cheat),” said former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel at a rally in Bhavnagar while kick starting his anti-Narendra Modi campaign early this month, before announcing the third front and that he would be contesting elections for the first time since Modi became CM. “Devils and magicians mislead people. He (Modi) is misleading people,” the 83-year old thundered at the same event.
This and many more personal attacks at recent public rallies suggest that the electoral battle this time is expected to hit the pits.
There have already been posters depicting Modi as the wicked mother-in-law comparing him to actor Lalita Pawar. Besides, dirty poster-wars, families have split loyalties and may end up fighting against each other.
A booklet recently put out in the name of Amreli Vidhan Sabha Bhajap Parivar purports to defend state agriculture minister Dileep Sanghani who was accused by RTI activist Nathalal Sukhadiya of assaulting him because he had “exposed” him. Rubbishing a charge of a taluka panchayat land being given away to the Amreli district bank which Sanghani heads, the booklet states in defence that the land transfer was stopped by a Congress member of the panchayat who is “Bhavnaben Sukhadiya, the third wife of the man who calls himself an RTI activist”.
Last month at a meeting in Surat, state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia had said “Narendra Modi is a terrorist in the political arena.” He went on to say that “Narendrabhai’s thoughts and actions are like Nathuram Godse”.
The Election Commission, though alarmed at these abusive displays of rivalry, can do little to stop it. “We can take action only if these things happen when the code of conduct is in force,” said a top EC official.
While Modi continues to bash the Centre and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the assault by every anti-Modi politician here puts him in the centre of the war of words.
Congress campaign committee chairman Shankersinh Vaghela does not support this though. “We know anti-Modi speeches have worked in his favour. That is the reason that this time we have decided to run issue driven campaign,” Vaghela said recently.
Some other Congress leaders also admit that the CM has mastery over turning anti-Modi speeches in his favour. “The biggest example is use of the ‘Maut ke saudagar’ remark by Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi in the run-up to the 2007 elections, and how it turned the tide in favour of Modi,” said a senior party leader.
Those who attend these rallies do not seem to be enjoying too much of negativity either. “Often very derogatory words have been used. It reflects the standard of poll campaigns that we have,” said Kunal Khatri, a college student from Bhavnagar, adding, “Not that BJP leaders are not indulged in mud slinging, but the Congress and the groups that form third front hardly speak common language.”
Though at times bashing has drawn laughs, but voters wonder if it matters in the final run. “If you call Modi a lapodshank, a good round of laugh is guaranteed. But, then what?” asked Preya Parekh, a college teacher from Bhavnagar.