Election Campaigns: Getting Cruder And Ruder!

Election Campaigns: Getting Cruder And Ruder!

Prof. T K Thomas

Prof. T K Thomas

The Indian political scene seems to be a fertile research field for pathologists to study newer diseases, syndrome and phobias! Politicians accuse each other with a host of diseases like ‘foot in the mouth syndrome /disease’, ‘Hindu - Muslim disease’, ‘shooting from the hips syndrome’, ‘pathological hatred syndrome’, ‘delusion of the past syndrome’.

With elections to five state assemblies presently going on, political parties and leaders would daydream of coming to power. We would know on 11th December who would win or lose. Dreams of many may be shattered or some others may fulfill theirs. Many dreams may end up like that of the old Doordarshan serial “Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne”, written by Manohar Shyam Joshi and directed by Prakash Jha.[The hugely popular 1989-’90 serial about an unsuccessful man (depicted by Raghubir Yadav) finding solace in his dreams taking revenge in his dreams on all who humiliated him.] Whatever that may be, in the run up to elections the public pronouncements by political leaders of all hues have been nothing but edifying and really pathetic- ruder, cruder and occasionally even lewder. One has no hesitation in saying that such leaders are severely affected by the above mentioned diseases, syndromes and phobias! With self styled psephologists predicting no sweep for any party, there appears to be a sense of despondency if not desperation, judging from the abysmal level of banal remarks and comments raised against each others’ political opponents.

The ruling political formation has once again dusted and refurbished an old electoral issue which always surfaced on the eve of elections. The fringe seems to have taken the lead reportedly to embarrass the ruling party. There is an attempt to openly project what is alleged as a communal agenda. Their leaders seem to have shed all notions of restraint, discernment and sobriety while referring even to the ancestors of the leaders of the main opposition. They also liberally stamp opposition leaders as terrorists, anti nationals and urban Naxals. They can change their political stand with no sense of remorse to suite political expediency. Some of them seem to have ignored even the apex court by openly criticizing or defying its orders. Often opposition parties charge them for their exaggerated claims on development, achievements on the economic front or growth rates. The average citizen is subjected to promises peppered with visions of past glory and not exactly a better standard of living.

The GOP claiming a ‘legacy’ of secularism appears to have suddenly invented a soft communal line. Their manifestoes reflect inclusion of pet obsessions of the ruling party. Some of their senior leaders seem to have either become senile or out of their wits. How would you like a senior leader claiming that only the ‘Pandits’ or Brahmins are eligible to speak about the predominant religion in the country? Isn’t it a direct insinuation of some of the tallest leaders of the ruling party who come from other communities? Another senior leader with chief ministerial dreams raised the issue of the voting patterns of the largest minority in the country. Both major parties have vitiated the level of political discourse.

Another actor turned leader taking a cue from what the present PM, when he was CM referring to the age of the then PM in the context of the rupee, said that the rupee now is as old as the mother of the present PM. How decent and culturally sensitive! Not to be outdone the present PM at his histrionic best ‘lamented’ how the opposition was not sparing his ‘Ma’! It is another matter that there were disparaging comments by the PM on even the ‘Nana-nani’ of the one who is affectionately referred to by the ruling party leaders as ‘clown prince’ who in turn refers to the undisputed leader as a ‘chor’ or thief!

Last week yet another opposition leader raised probably the worst kind of issue. He stated that everyone knows who the father and the genealogy of the leader of the main opposition party and then asked whether anyone knew who the father or grandfather of the PM was! Such remarks cross all limits of decency and articulate the worst kind of attitude and a wonky mindset.

If every leader from opposing political camps is going to avenge satirical, funny or insinuating remarks of each other as if it is tit for tat, it will open a new chapter in the annals of electoral politics in the country. The news channels have a field day in even doing discussions and talk shows on trivial remarks and comments unworthy of being taken seriously to be included in prime time news. What a fall, my countrymen! As 2019 general elections are imminent, the competitive slanging matches are sure to be more virulent and vituperative.

Now they are not even sparing the dead. One was under the impression that we Indians treat the departed with respect. The Sunday Express carried a front page story under the title, “Kurien funded conversions with Amul money: BJP’s ex minister”. The allegation is from Dileep Sanghani, a BJP leader and former minister. According to him Dr. Verghese Kurien, founder chairman of the National Dairy Development Board and the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, funded religious conversions by Christian missionaries by donating funds from Amul”. The irony is that the gentleman is a former chairman of the Gujarat State Cooperative Marketing Federation and was, according to the newspaper, speaking at Amar Dairy in Amreli on Saturday, 24th November at a motorcycle rally organized by Amul to retrace the life and works of Dr. Kurien” on the occasion of ‘’ National Milk Day “on November 26, which is Kurien’s birth anniversary.

His grouse is that the credit of the humongous success of Amul goes to its founder Tribhuvandas Patel and that Kurien was just employed as secretary. He has every right to make any allegation against Kurian who cannot react as he left this world in 2012.One would recall a column written exactly a year back entitled, “Make in India- Management Dr. Kurien Style”. It featured interviews with Dr. Kurien, Tribhuvandas Patel, his mentor and founder of Amul and others which were broadcast on the National Channel of All India Radio [AIR] in 1988-’89,a couple of years after one left AIR. Veteran journalist M V Kamath’s biography of Dr. Kurian titled, “Management Kurien Style: The Story of the White revolution” [Konark Publishers, second edition 1996] was a great resource.

To say the least what the Former Gujarat Minister Dileep Sanghani ‘s allegation of Dr. Kurien funding missionaries is patently incorrect. Dr, Kurian from what he told one and other sources was an atheist and had nothing to do with any religion or conversions. Kamath who had followed his life and work does not mention anything to this effect in his book. Secondly Dr, Kurian had always maintained that the father of the milk cooperatives was Tribhuvandas Patel and that Patel was his mentor. In fact, it was indeed a symbiotic relationship between Kurien, a technocrat and professional and Patel, a wonderful organizer and leader who had three jail terms as a Sathygrahi under Gandhi ji and Sardar Vallabhai Patel. It was together that Patel and Kurian warded off corporate competition in dairy industry to establish a cooperative movement par excellence. There was no competition between Kurien and his mentor for claiming credits. They were large hearted men who should not be dragged into today’s identity politics. The following excerpts from ones interview with Dr. Kurien is apt in this context :-

Dr. Kurien recalled, ”Tribhuvandas told me’’ [as I was on my way to the Station to leave Anand for good] that if I Continued in Anand, it could be a great challenge and we could build a milk movement and in return I would be paid six or seven hundred rupees. He also told me, if I were to leave, I would earn much more and would have a much better life.”. Dr. Kurian accepted the challenging task of mobilizing the milk farmers and their cooperative movement. ”The rest is history and it is there to see”, Dr. Kurien announced with a chuckle of delight. “The Kaira Union with 432 members in 1948 was struggling with an old pasteurization plant to produce milk for the Bombay Milk Scheme”, Dr. Kurien explained, “By 1955 a new plant was in position and we became the first in the country to process buffalo milk into various dairy products,” He also asked me to interview Tribhuvandas Patel which I did despite Patel’s advanced age and speech problems. In the 1970s when Patel finally retired from Amul as its chairman he handed over the chairmanship to Dr. Kurien. When one met both of them and interviewed them their mutual respect and appreciation were evident. How can anyone now try to create schism between these two departed souls?

It is interesting that the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1963 was awarded for “Community Leadership’’ to Tribhuvandas Patel together with Kurien and D N Khurody a former Milk Commissioner of Bombay. The award committee more than today’s so called leaders knew and recognized the worth of two dedicated community leaders and their pioneering work in the cooperative movement in India and for building up of Amul, a global brand.