The sigh of relief as the general elections campaign in the world’s loudest democracy wound up may have been heard from well beyond India. There had never been such belligerent noises in an election. Diverse views on multiple topics may never have been in short supply in India, but for sheer vituperative attacks in an up close and personal manner, the 2019 polls must take the biscuit.
Hot issues were freely spoken of at the hustings. From Narendra Modi to the Modis who looted and scooted, from Gandhi to Rahul, God to Godse, Mallya to Maya, Mahabharata to the Ramayana and from Pulwama to Balakot - the topics covered were so numerous that it is moot whether voters were any the wiser in this tit for tat, barb for barb, jibe for jibe campaigning. A seven-week intense campaign period after the polls began on April 11 meant that the voices, driven by despair in a high stakes poll, got shriller as the weeks went by.
They even made a visit to a cave in Kedarnath by one of the principal actors a poll issue by adverting that the Model Code of Conduct had been breached again. It was apparently fine for all leaders to visit temples and godmen to further their prospects or draw moral strength to keep going at this election madness, but when it came to the Prime Minister taking time off to meditate at the end of the campaign seemed to draw political fire from the illiberal left and others similarly inclined not to be charitable about faith and prayer.
Adding to the cacophony was Kamal Haasan, at best a minor player in the political game, who suddenly discovered a historical truth that the man who shot Mahatma Gandhi was a Hindu. Why bring religion into the terrible Indian event of 71 years ago unless the actor wished to cast his net for a few votes that might come his way if he identifies Gandhi’s killer by his religion? The pressures of another comment going down the wrong way with people may have forced him to see very soon the larger truth that there are terrorists in all religions.
Terror has no religion. There are terrorists roaming the world today who were born into so many religions - Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu. But to consider them to be driven only by zealotry is to be naïve. What Godse, the assassin, did was pure evil in killing an apostle of peace, the Mahatma of ahimsa. It was the vilest hate crime in history. But how did it become important then to name the religion of Gandhi’s assassin while the same politician had said, in a platitude, that “Violence can never be the final solution to human disagreements,” but thought the Sri Lankan government had to be impartial and swift in rendering justice.
Coordinated Islamist terror hit various churches on the island and the acts were universally condemned. The white supremacist who shot down worshippers in New Zealand mosques was no less a terrorist than those from other faiths who are as equally misguided. There is no denying that numerically more terror acts in India and around the world have been carried out by misguided Muslims in recent years. Much of the terror on Indian soil has been inspired by Pakistan but that is a different issue.
Even those who take a gun into campus and shoot at random are terrorists and they aim to disrupt society for no other reason than to satisfy their itchy terror finger, giving way to impulses born of an inner madness. Considering the background of terror around the world, it was vacuous on the part of one politician to come out with a statement that an event 71 years in the past should be opened up as a poll issue. Terror and national security were freely spoken of in the course of the campaign but does the Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination fit into it.
Having acted as the social gadfly for a year and more after entering politics, Kamal had consistently steered well beyond political correctness to bring up vague points, including a Kashmir plebiscite which they have stopped speaking about even in Pakistan. His personal faith, or lack of belief in god, is his own.
Trumpeting atheism is probably as undesirable as bringing religion into politics to attract votes. The bottom line appears to be that politicians will speak anything, stray into any topic if there is a vote to be attracted. It would be ironic if the gadfly’s campaign is unable to win a seat if only to justify the stirring of the pot....