Home / Elections 2019 / Lok Sabha Elections 2019 /  The A-Z of electioneering

A for Apology

A contrite note on which to start, but where there’s abuse, apology usually follows as a quick cop-out after the inappropriate has been said. The latest is Bharatiya Janata Party’s Pragya Singh expressing regret after calling Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse a deshbhakt (patriot). This is a few weeks after she apologized for saying her curse killed police officer Hemant Karkare. Will we ever hear leaders apologizing to voters for the candidates we endure?

ALSO: A for Anantnag, the only seat where polls were held in three phases—divide and rule, anyone?

B for Bed Tea

for Bed Tea

For those who grew up in a more egalitarian, do-it-yourself world and never had bed tea, it was quite a revelation to learn about this archaic ritual of rising. In the era of preset phone alarms, bulletproof coffee and specialty teas on the go, TMC’s Moon Moon Sen proved she’s earned the tag of “yesteryear actor" when she said she’d been served bed tea late and had no idea about violence during phase-IV polling in Bengal.

ALSO: B for Balakot, because it can’t be ignored, but seriously, enough said.

C for Chowkidar

Congress made its campaign slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai", playing on Modi’s statement that he was the guard preventing corruption. Days later, BJP countered it with “Main Bhi Chowkidar". Rahul Gandhi repeated his slogan a few too many times, even saying the SC had said so—and BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi filed a case. Rahul (‘A’ for) apologized, said he’d got carried away “in the heat of campaign". With so many sentries, it’s hard to watch one’s words.

ALSO: C for Cloud—and the kind of scientific temper that makes you want to run for cover.

D for Daddy

Where would politicians be without pa? An AIADMK minister kicked off the pater prattle in March to explain the tie-up with BJP: “Since we lost our Amma (Jayalalithaa), PM Modi has come as a Daddy to guide us. Modi is not only Daddy for AIADMK, he is also Daddy for the nation." Weeks later, YSR Congress’ Jagan Mohan Reddy said his father told him he “had a good heart and pushed me into politics". And Modi has taken potshots at Rahul’s dad, Rajiv (see R).

ALSO: D for Data, which you can collect, conceal or spin any way you want to tell any story you want + D for Dynasty since politics has always been a family affair, business even, across parties for decades.

E for Experiment

Which MNS chief Raj Thackeray says voters should do. Though he’s not fielding candidates, he’s campaigned against BJP-Shiv Sena and said if people could experiment with Modi, why not Rahul. Raj’s humour and sarcasm, reminiscent of his uncle Bal Thackeray, drew huge crowds and was quite a thorn in the side of the BJP.

ALSO: E for Election Commission, which organized one of the biggest polls ever but made some oddball decisions, opening itself up to accusations of bias

F for Farmer

Every politician’s favourite person during elections, the farmer has been promised loan waivers, cash transfers, minimum prices, income benefits, crop subsidies, insurance. But there’s no mention about real improvement in agriculture or tackling climate change.

G for Gift

Politicians always had a gift for the dramatic, but this time Modi and Mamata have been presenting each other opportunities to sneer. Modi told Akshay Kumar during that now-famous interview that Mamata sends him gifts of kurtas. Later, at a rally, he mocked her: “Make a bad painting and gift it to me after I return to power". When EC decided to stop campaigning early in Bengal, Mamata called it “a gift for BJP". Modi said abuses from the opposition were a “gift to the BJP". The season of giving, indeed.

ALSO: G for Godse, and attempts to rehabilitate an assassin. Religion does teach that it’s never too late for redemption.

H for Hua to hua

So said Congress’ Sam Pitroda of the organized killing of Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, and set off a storm. It’s this display of casual indifference stemming from privilege that BJP loves; another G for gift for them. Rahul had to apologize on Pitroda’s behalf. ALSO: H for Hava of the garam kind, or hot air, an excess of which no election is without; and heat wave that depressed voter turnouts + H for History, which repeats itself and is also rewritten with every campaign speech.

I for I-T raids

From DMK’s Kanimozhi in Tamil Nadu to Congress aides in Madhya Pradesh and Goa, candidates have had search-and-seize visits from tax officials looking for illegal income. Voting was cancelled in Vellore as the I-T department seized over 11 crore from a DMK member’s house.ALSO: I for Interview with scripted, pre-approved questions + I for Image as some politicians had a makeover, while others worry about a cultivated image being broken.

J for Jumlebaazi

For those who don’t speak much Hindi, this election has been an education. When Modi accused AAP of nakampanthi or non-performance, Kejriwal responded, “What have you done in the last five years —lectures, foreign tours and jumlebaazi?" Turns out jumlebaazi is one of those hard-to-translate-to-angrezi words, being a combination of rhetoric, fake promise and sleight of logic.

ALSO: J for Joke, always on the voter + J for Jobs, which are heard, but rarely seen.

K for Khan Market Gang

If you’re shopping for insults, you don’t have to go far to find a creative way to call someone a snob, thanks to the PM. To Modi, the former refugee colony now the country’s priciest retail market is a symbol of the elite, insular world of privilege he’s breaking down. One BJP worker, who clearly didn’t get the memo, has asked for its name to be changed to Valmiki market.

ALSO: K for Khichdi, which the PM promoted for five years as national dish but now warns against, referring to coalitions. But where would India be without its love for mixing things up, whether people or politics?

L for Lies

Each side has accused the other of lying, and made up some tall tales of its own in the process of trying to set the record straight. As Mint columnist Salil Tripathi wrote a few days ago, “Where ignorance is bliss, it is jolly to spread lies."

M for Man Cave

A specially appointed retreat for a man to get some space. The latest fad is to create one that looks exactly like a natural cave but with bed, phone, camera crew and a few other essentials to meditate in solitude and see the light.

ALSO: M for Mango, everyone’s favourite fruit, and—as we now know from that probing interview by Akshay Kumar—the prime minister’s too. Kumar even went into the details of how Modi liked to eat it, cut into pieces or whole.

N for Nehru

Citizens rediscovered the country’s first PM who became the subject of WhatsApp forwards, fake news, real speeches and nobly took the blame for everything that’s wrong with this country. Namumkin ab mumkin hai (impossible is possible)?

ALSO: N for Nota, which is steadily increasing its ‘vote share’ but makes no difference + N for NRI, those patriots who haven’t voted in 20 years but whose “hearts are in India" and have a detailed prescription of nationalism for those whose hearts, minds, bodies and jobs are actually in India.

O for Orop, Odomos

NC’s Omar Abdullah kicked off the season of creative insults in January when he said the country was suffering “too much ODOMOS-overdose of only Modi only Shah". That came in response to BJP’s Amit Shah telling party workers, “Modiji gave OROP (one rank, one pension) to our jawans, Congress gave Only Rahul Only Priyanka." Looking back, that seems like the high point of political discourse this year.

P for Priyanka

Not just Gandhi-Vadra and the guessing games she played with her party and voters. Priyanka Chaturvedi quit in rage after Congress readmitted men who misbehaved with her, and joined Shiv Sena, giving the grand old party an out despite it supporting abusers. From politicians not taking a stand against harassment, chatter turned to Chaturvedi’s ambition, which of course, is a bad thing for women to have. Then, BJP member Priyanka Sharma turned a photo of actor Priyanka Chopra’s Met Gala look into a meme of Mamata. An offended Mamata had Sharma arrested. The apex court ordered her release—and told her to (‘A’ for) apologize.ALSO: P for Press Presence, or a press conference at which you are present but do not speak.

Q for Questions

Many are raised in a boom of righteous anger at election rallies, few are answered during the course of campaigning or after a government is installed. The burning questions of this election have been whether one received the benefits of government schemes or not, and whether one is a nationalist or not. Everything else, like jobs, is a rhetorical question. After the dust of campaigning has settled, voters are left questioning their sanity.

ALSO: Q for Queue, in which voters spend patient hours to vote + Q for Quota, and a last-minute announcement of 10% reservation for economically weaker upper castes that mollified some voters.

R for Rajiv Gandhi

The former PM who died more than 25 years ago probably didn’t get as much airtime when he contested elections. Modi called him Bhrashtachar No.1 (most corrupt), which Congress folk countered with more jibes. In Tamil Nadu, DMK and AIADMK have promised to free those convicted for his assassination if they’re elected. Now that’s quite a legacy.

ALSO: R for Rally at which much of already discussed garam hava is released + R for Raksha or protection of cow and country, running themes of the last few years.

S for Slap

Kejriwal was slapped during a roadshow in Delhi. Mamata said she wanted to give Modi “one tight slap of democracy". With its talent for spin, BJP said the Bengal CM wanted to slap the PM. Mamata said Modi would have to hold his ears and do 100 squats if he failed to prove his allegation that TMC candidates were involved in illegal coal mining. Who said democracy was a non-violent exercise?ALSO: S for Social Media, and that one’s self explanatory.

T for Taxi

Modi said R for Rajiv used the Navy’s INS Viraat as a “personal taxi" for a 10-day holiday with his family after Rahul accused him of referring to the Armed Forces as his own. Congress’ Randeep Singh Surjewala took up the baton and tweeted, “You (Modi) have made Indian Air Force your own Taxi! You have paid as low as 744 for using IAF jets for election trips…" Uber Pool, anyone?

U for Underwear

The rather vicious Azam Khan of SP who’s up against BJP’s Jaya Prada in Rampur was the first to be handed down a 72-hour campaign ban by the EC for making a remark about “khaki underwear". He was later banned for 48 hours for making communal remarks—and played the victim card saying BJP was “provoking me to say such things so that I will not win". No, he did not apologize; do misogynists ever?ALSO: U for Uncertainty, which hounds every party no matter the bluster.

V for Violence

In Bengal, a bust of 19th century reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalized even as TMC and BJP workers clashed through the course of campaigning and polling. In TN, party workers of all hues got into skirmishes, and police had to fire in the air to disperse workers who tried to stop an election squad from carrying out duties. In Kerala too, there was widespread violence towards the end of campaigning as BJP, LDF and UDF workers clashed. In Tripura (East), voting was deferred after EC decided law and order situation was bad.

W for wisdom

Of the raw kind, where fake facts become reality when they’re repeated often enough. The latest to tickle Twitter and have the opposition raging was an interview in which Modi said his “raw wisdom" had prompted him to advise the Air Force to carry out the Balakot attack despite the bad weather. Wisen up, and learn new science.

ALSO: W for Wave which politicians have to perfect while standing for hours. Yes, we’re joking. Of course, it’s the big question about a Modi Wave or lack of a lahar, which is still under debate.

X for Xenophobia

And prejudice of all shades, which we Indians have in heaps, but we’ve always adjusted and professed unity in diversity. It’s getting harder—think of the frightened, temporary exodus of migrants from the North-East and UP from Karnataka and Gujarat based on rumours over the last few years. And NRC. And BJP’s Amit Shah calling illegal immigrants “termites".

ALSO: X for X-factor, the unknown quantity that swings elections every time, upsetting every psephologist prediction.

Y for Youth

One of the words most misused by politicians who till age 60 retain positions as chiefs of ‘Youth’ and ‘Students’ sections of parties. DMK’s M.K Stalin had the longest adolescence, spending 34 years as secretary of the party’s youth wing before stepping up to be president in 2017. Y is really about yuva, more than 100 million of whom voted in this election, and whom politicians have canvassed, promising jobs, minimum income, education, and the moon.

Z for Zombie

Which we’ve all turned into with two months of non-stop election coverage and debate. Can’t wait for the new government to be formed so that we can go home and zombie-out with Netflix.


Shalini Umachandran

Shalini Umachandran is Editor of Mint Lounge, Mint’s award-winning magazine, and the Editor of Business of Life. Her areas of interest are culture and the arts, social justice, and more. Currently based in New Delhi, she has been a reporter, a podcaster and an editor for publications across India. She is the author of ‘You Can Make Your Dreams Work’, a book of 15 stories of people who switched careers. She is a former IWMF fellow, and a fellow of the Institute of Palliative Care India and St Christopher’s Hospice London.
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