Confusing voter for power

Intentional Distortions

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Distortion of facts, ‘hate speech’ and even misinterpretation of court judgments,appear to be near normal this general election. It should be a cause concern for the electorate, but unfortunately masses do get swayed with the rhetoric and the hysteria created around, given sheer ignorance and low level of education. Allowing political parties and their star campaigners to play merry havoc with sentiments, particularly veering around religion.

Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Rajasthan’s Banswara is one such glaring case, among others,which has been written a lot about. Modi, as per fact checking, distorted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speech in 2009, wherein he has stated that the marginalised had priority in any scheme of redistribution of wealth. However, Modi thought it prudent to give this a religious turn by saying that if the Congress is elected to power, it would do what Singh wanted i.e. give away the wealth of the nation to ‘infiltrators’ and ‘those who have more children meaning Muslims along with the mangalsutras of women.

The Congress, Left parties and civil society groups complained to the Election Commission of India against Modi’s divisive remarks, stating it was a clear violation of the model code of conduct. The complaint observed: “Shri Modi distorted the statement and peddled a lie with a clear objective of creating fear among the Hindus that the opposition Congress Party would give the wealth of the country to Muslims”. Note, Article 39(b) of the Constitution provides that the State should direct its policy towards securing “that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed to subserve the common good”.

Recall that Vinoba Bhave started the bhoodan movement to urge big landowners to give a part of their landholdings to poor farmers. The sharing of one’s resources with the poorer sections of the community is something that needs to be inculcated amongst the rich and become part of our national policy.

On its part, the BJP also issued complaints to the Election Commission against Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and Rahul Gandhi. The BJP said that in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Rahul alleged that the prime minister was attacking “our language, history, and tradition” and brining about a north-south divide. It also accused Kharge of violating the model code by claiming that he was not invited to the Ram temple consecration ceremony due to discrimination against SCs and STs.

Lately, another controversy has erupted regarding inheritance tax. A few countries have this tax and the most important country in this category is the US. Sam Pitroda, chairman of Indian Overseas Congress, said in a recent interview that the inheritance tax in America was “interesting law” and could be an issue that people could debate and discuss. He clearly pointed out the redistribution of wealth entails new policies and programmes that are in the interest of the common people and not in the interest of the super-rich only. Pitroda’s comments gave additional ammunition to Prime Minister Modi, who appears to have relegated ‘Viksit Bharat’ campaign to the back seat after the first round of voting and instead playing the Hindu-Muslim polarisation card.

Modi grabbed the opportunity to accuse the Congress of planning to impose an inheritance tax, raising the slogan “Congress ki loot, zindagi ke saath bhi, zindagi ki baad bhi”.  This is misleading and moving away from the real issue and a subtle attempt to protect interests of the rich. He said that the late Rajiv Gandhi had abolished the inheritance tax to “save his property” but, in reality, the abolition was effective for deaths after March 16, 1985 – over four months after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, making Rajiv ineligible for its benefits.

Experts believe that the redistribution of private assets have the potential to solve the problem of widening inequality accompanied by unemployment, poverty and hopelessness that induced 170,000 suicides in India in 2022, 27 percent more than in 2018. At no point in our known history has the proportion of the population experiencing absolute deprivation been as low as it is today. One may mention here that economic growth without grass-root development has no meaning. The point is to broaden the participative base of economic activity as a portion of growth would accrue to those creating it. But the political leadership is not focussing on restoring citizens with rights and dignity and providing adequate and quality education, healthcare and infrastructure, physical as well as financial.

The other development pertains to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who has been trying frantically to distort a High Court order and questioning the integrity of judges in scrapping over 25,000 teaching and non-teaching posts. Not just her, but TMC leaders have been quoted saying the judges were working on the advice of the BJP.The court stated: “all appointments granted in the selection processes involved being violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India are declared null and void and cancelled . . . SSC, State and Board have perseveringly non-cooperated so that even the possibility of trying to separate the grain from the chaff could be rendered nugatory.”.

The order referred to the scam of being one of unprecedented dimension, which obviously cannot be doubted and, as such, the court scrapped the whole panel of 2016. Banerjee stated that the judgment was passed into a “mandir, masjid or gurdwara” but in “BJP’s bicharalaya (court)”. While telling the common people that she wanted to give jobs to the deserving, criticism of the judiciary and insinuation of judges is, no doubt, jarring. Even TMC General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee said, “a section of Calcutta HC is in a nexus with the BJP”. A case has been filed against the chief minister.

Politics has undoubtedly reached a new low with leaders intentionally distorting facts to gain political mileage. Sadly, they do not feel the need to get down to basic issues which matter to the common man. Principles and ideologies are being sacrificed at the altar of politics and leaders’wealth is surging ahead. Such mischief has unfortunately been continuing and civil society is not strong enough to thwart such intent. Both at the Central and state levels, the spirit of dissent has been broken by authoritarian tendencies. This has been clearly highlighted by Western media, which is increasingly doubting India as a true democracy.

Free and fair elections are bedrock of democracy. The electorate must be able to make a well-informed decision and be given the confidence that his vote will help bring a government which cares for its well-being. And it is the Election Commission which too must play its role and be above board. Distortion of facts and confusing the voter defeats the entire exercise, and it must actively step in and call out the guilty leaders, whichever party it may be. — INFA