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Sai's Take: Gandhi was, is, will always be alive

May 17, 2019 09:45 IST
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'When the story of Elections 2019 is told by an independent writer, the BJP's role in lowering electoral standards will be etched in indelible ink,' says Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

The Mahatma

Once you have dragged dead leaders from the past for your own tendentious election campaign, then you know it was only a question of time before even the Father of the Nation is not spared a mention, such is the low level that Lok Sabha election 2019 has descended to.

By questioning Jawaharlal Nehru, by criticising Indira Gandhi or abusing Rajiv Gandhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party may think that it has undermined the present generation of Nehru-Gandhis in the fray, but what they didn't realise -- or maybe did but just did not care -- that they were sending out a message that there are no Lakshman Rekhas in the election campaign.

The ground for dragging Gandhiji into the muck was laid, ironically, by someone who claims to be a devotee, at least from the time he shot a film based, again ironically, on the killing of the Mahatma, Hey Ram.

When actor turned politician Kamal Haasan told a meeting in Tamil Nadu earlier this week that Nathuram Godse, who pumped bullets into Gandhi that fateful January day in 1948, was independent India's first 'Hindu terrorist', he too had crossed a line, never mind his intellectual pirouettes in justifying it.

From then it was just a matter of days before someone popped a question to Pragya Singh Thakur about Haasan's comment. And the shoot-from-your-lip-apologise-later candidate of the BJP didn't disappoint her fans and followers when she dubbed the assassin a 'patriot'.


As always apologies flowed in quick succession, but the question remains: If Godse was, as Pragya claimed, a 'patriot', what does it make the man who gave his self to free India of British rule?

By a scheduling quirk, NDTV's panel of Prannoy Roy and Shekhar Gupta was ideally placed to answer this question. In Patna, facing the historic Gandhi maidan, the panel, however, ignored the eponym and chose to focus on the fact that Jayaprakash Narayan had launched his pro-democracy agitation against Indira Gandhi from the very spot, and how we choose to remember personalities by erecting memorials for them, but forget their ideals.

Truer words cannot be said of Mahatma Gandhi who we have enshrined as the Father of the Nation but abuse everyday by questioning his sacrifice.

NDTV's lead was followed by various TV channels who preferred the juicy Mamata Vs Modi binary to the Mahatma.

Barring Faye D'Souza who opened her prime time segment with the Pragya Singh outrage, and was the only anchor to demand that the BJP withdraw its Bhopal candidate, a demand that is only fair and just.

Sai's Take

The BJP cannot have it both ways.

It cannot, on one hand, complain about the falling political standards or promise clean politics, and on the other, try and send someone dubious like Pragya Singh who stands accused of a serious charge like terrorism to the highest legislative body in the country.

To wriggle out by saying that under the law of the land everyone is presumed innocent till proven guilty is verbal sophistry. In its haste to try and bring down the man who it accuses of coining the term 'Hindu terror', Digvijaya Singh, the BJP has done immense harm to the electoral system by nominating Pragya Singh.

In fact, when the story of Elections 2019 is told by an independent writer, the BJP's role in lowering electoral standards will be etched in indelible ink.

Otherwise, it was quite a dull affair on TV on Thursday night. Times Now went after the Opposition efforts in forging unity ahead of the election results on May 23, leading with the hashtag #ModiVsCoalitionOfPms.

Not to be outdone, Republic TV chose #LutyensExitPollFail and #ModiObsession. CNN News18's Bhupendra Chaubey was holding a citizens panel discussion in Varanasi, where Verdict 2019 stares you in the face.

So it was left to the traditional journalist in Rajdeep Sardesai to restore some semblance of TV debate, asking on India Today TV if the BJP will take any responsibility for the violence in Kolkata in the wake of Amit Anilchandra Shah's road show on Tuesday night.

Of course, no party spokesperson will answer that question in the affirmative, and G V L Narasimha Rao chose to focus on the number of BJP workers killed in Bengal to show that they were in fact at the receiving end of the Trinamool Congress's violence. 'Mamata Banerjee is running a goonda state,' he thundered.

'Why are you blaming us, law and order is a state subject, so why did Mamata not control the situation?'

To which the Trinamool Congress's Mahua Moitra was ready with a counter. 'The BJP cannot have it both ways, it cannot run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. With the elections announced, the administration is in the hands of the Election Commission, not the state government, so technically law and order was not in our hands.'

'As for their party president Amit Shah, in the rest of the country he may act as if he is big daddy, and gets treated like one, but not when it comes to Bengal. When he comes here he feels threatened. Why did they bring workers from outside the state to Kolkata? Because they have nobody in Bengal, that's why, but want show that they do. Their sense of insecurity comes right from the prime minister who was abusing the state government every day.'

When Rajdeep questioned Rao if it was true that the BJP brought workers from outside, he flipped it around. 'Are you saying that Indians are not free to travel within the country?'

Finally, Mahua Moitra conceded: 'Bengal has a long history of political violence, going back to the Naxalbari days,' so it is not right to single out the Trinamool Congress.

In all the light and sound amounting to nothing, the man whose voice was keenly awaited felt ignored. T S Krishnamurthy, former chief election commissioner, after berating the network for keeping him waiting after requesting an appearance for 'only 15 minutes' and making him listen to an interminable political duel, was clear about the charges of partisanship levelled against the Election Commission for cancelling Friday's campaign in Bengal.

The decision was based on the law as it is, 'so if you don't agree with the decision challenge it in a court of law', but don't criticise the commission for taking a decision as per law.

What would he have done if was in charge of elections today?

Krishnamurthy had no doubt. 'If I was in that position, I would have postponed the elections.'

'We must threaten the political parties with such draconian decisions to make them realise that the election process cannot be trifled with,' he said.

That is because, in the democratic process as it prevails today, the political parties 'are the weakest link'.

The Congress's Pawan Khera, articulate and civil most times, disagreed.

'The Election Commission has been caught napping, just look at the number of clean chits they have been doling out. The weakest link in this election is the Election Commission.'

Times Now finally did turn to debating, if that is the word, Pragya Singh's patriot certificate for Godse. The BJP's national spokesperson Amit Malviya wriggled out saying that at the time of Gandhi's murder 'the BJP did even exist', so how can you blame us for it?

Tehseen Poonawala was shown no such leeway in remarks, and Navika Kumar plunged into him. 'Liberals like you don't have the right to talk. You can nominate someone like Sajjan Kumar, you will condemn Burhan Wani's killing, defend the Tukde Tukde gang', but denounce Pragya for her comments? 'You don't have a voice.'

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