Halfway through this endless election if it were not clear that Narendra Modi leads the race, he may have seriously considered suing Sonia Gandhi for her recent TV appeal. In her first direct address to the nation in a decade of being India’s de facto prime minister, she accused Modi of trying to break the country. She said, in so many words, that the choice before voters in this election was between “Bharatiyata” and a “vision clouded with hatred and falsehoods… that will drive India to ruination”.
So fascinated was I by Shrimati Sonia’s Bharatiyata appeal that I watched it more than once in Hindi and in English and the longer I watched, the more I saw a case for slander. It reminded me of Rajiv Gandhi’s speeches during the 1984 election campaign when he accused the opposition parties of treason because of their alliance with the Akali Dal. In those long ago times, the Election Commission was feeble and there was no Code of Conduct; so he got away with it, but it surprises me that nobody in the Bharatiya Janata Party has complained yet about their prime ministerial candidate being charged with trying to destroy India. What has Modi said so far that can be construed as spreading hatred?
His campaign has talked about taking India in a new economic direction with “minimum government, maximum governance”. He has talked about making India a rich and prosperous country by creating jobs for the youth and investing in education and healthcare. On the Hindu-Muslim front, he has urged both Hindus and Muslims to fight poverty and not each other. So whoever wrote Madame’s appeal can be taken to court for spreading falsehoods.
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As someone who is very keen on Bharatiyata, I consider it my duty as a Bharatiya to point out that the Congress party has caused more damage to it since 1947 than almost anyone else. In the name of socialism, magnificent palaces, forts and ancient temples have been allowed to decay. Soniaji, please take a boat ride on the Ganga when you go to campaign against Modi and you will see the ruins of our oldest city. And while you are about it, notice what has happened to our most sacred river.
If ‘socialist’ values have caused the neglect of old monuments and museums, ‘secular’ values have made it impossible for Indian children to learn about their own country in state schools. What they are taught about India’s ancient civilisation would fit on a postage stamp. So they usually leave school imbued with more awe of McDonalds and Hollywood than any aspect of their own heritage.
Two other things in Soniaji’s appeal caught my attention. She said Congress had respect for democratic institutions (they do not), without noticing that she has personally diminished the prime minister’s office to dwarf size. Sanjay Baru’s excellent new book confirms this, but in dusty villages and shabby small towns during this election campaign, I have met ordinary, semi-literate Indians who complain that the prime minister has not been allowed to be a leader.
They use mean words to describe the good doctor’s status. So Soniaji, you have some nerve when you talk about respecting “the institutions of democracy”. And, even more of a nerve when you say that you believe that power “should not be the preserve of a select few”.
Have you not noticed that the Congress Party under your leadership has been reduced to a family firm? Have you not noticed that nearly all your younger MPs are in the Lok Sabha because they had a Mummy or Daddy who bequeathed them a parliamentary constituency as if it were just a family estate? Have you not noticed that the main reason why your son is Managing Director today of the family firm is because he is your son? So where are those with whom you believe you have shared power?
India’s tragedy is that it is today a country in which too much political power is in the hands of too few people and it is because of this that voters are looking for change this time. It is the reason why a new political party could get where it has in so short a time and it could be the reason why Narendra Modi could soon become India’s prime minister.
Ordinary Indians are so impatient for change that the word I have come to identify this election most with is parivartan. I have heard it so often on my travels that it rings constantly in my ears. When I ask people why they want to vote for Modi they nearly always say that it is because they want India to become a developed country and they think he can make this happen. So where did you hear this talk of hatred?
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh