The vitiated political discourse in India

Everybody knows that two wrongs do not make it right. In other words the wrong things, say, of similar nature done by somebody else in the past cannot justify wrongs inflicted by you or me at the present time. This is an ethical common sense hard to escape for anybody. Yet in most political discourses currently underway in India this value is conveniently given a short shrift. At times it does look like a fight between children or silly ego clashes between temperamental adults. But we are talking about serious matters often involving death, destruction and destitution of a large number of poor and helpless people who are anyway living at the edge and mark their time at the mercy of the nature and some powerful men.


Whenever one side criticizes the other of some wrongdoing as of today, rest assured that swift riposte from the other side mentioning past misdeeds of the critic of similar or related nature would be invited. If my party is accused of a state-sponsored pogrom killing thousands belonging to a particular community in not too distant past, be sure that I will put you on the mat about your party’s active role in organizing and conducting butchering and burning of equal or more number of people belonging to another community not so long ago and about how the government machinery, most notably the police was made to be complicit in allowing the carnage to happen and sabotaging the dispensation of justice over the next 30 or 40 years.


If you are going to discuss (say, in a TV discussion) a particularly gruesome episode of brutal massacre with reference to the former and be silent on the arson, mayhem, rape and murder in the latter context that will be an one-sided talk and an indication of your lack of fairness and balanced outlook. If there is a flurry of corruption scandals during our regime and losses of public money due to the actions taken by some of our ministers and bureaucrats working under them, how can we let anybody (including our interlocutors) forget similar misappropriation of funds and cases of financial misdemeanor and sweetheart deals, tailor made policies to suit the crony industrialists and businessmen under your watch in different parts of the country. 


The amazing thing is that each party feels vindicated by the wrong doing of the other. And once the other party is maligned with sufficiently strong coat of accusations one could feel relieved and live with one’s own share of the charge sheet of wrongdoings. One also has to admire the elephantine memory on both sides of the political divide, helped as they are by technology and perhaps some professional support. Except that such skills are not used to accumulate statistics of hunger, malnutrition and stunted growth with equal perspicacity when the affected population live and die under our political dispensation. All our analytical acuity and statistical prowess would rather be used to prune the number of people taking their lives in our villages from the category of ‘real farmers’, the target being ‘zero farmer suicide’ to be claimed in the official handout by the statistics department.  


Certain degree of self-righteousness is perhaps at the heart of any political action. But aren’t we overdoing it on all sides ? Moreover, being right should also entail not being wrong on all or most counts that we accuse our opponents about. Sadly, in the paroxysm of our righteous stone pelting, we forget our own little glass houses. As a result no one can occupy the moral high ground any more. If the energy expended and the ingenuity marshalled in fault finding exercise aimed at others could have been redirected, for a change, towards ourselves and our own decisions and the acts of omission and commission, this in turn would have motivated us to take the corrective actions ourselves.  The initiation of the chain of blame, hopefully, would have been much less virulent or it might have even been stalled from growing not being able to invite and add to a similar chain of reverse polarity.

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