Home >Opinion >Columns >Real issues have taken a back seat in high-pitched poll battle

Are the elections going to be held in West Bengal only? Naturally, everyone would say that assembly elections are going to be held in four states and a Union territory. However, in reality, everybody is talking about West Bengal. Why? Do the other four states not have such an influence on the politics of the country?

To find the answer to these questions, one has to turn to West Bengal. Let me give an example of the kind of political war going on there. Recently, a clip was being shown repeatedly on all the news channels. In this, a woman above the age of 80 years of North 24 Parganas shows her badly swollen face and says, “I was beaten by those people. I kept denying it, but they kept on beating me. I am unable to breathe now. I am in great pain." The face of this old lady and her trembling voice were enough to describe her pain and also conveyed a heartfelt narrative. Who had done it?

To answer this question, her son Gopal Majumdar came forward in the next shot. Tattered clothes and his injured lips were sufficient to describe the seriousness of the case. Gopal says, “They were 10-12 people. They started beating me as soon as they arrived. When the mother came out of the house on the hearing commotion, they also started beating her. Other people in the house were also beaten. The reason? I am a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker. Those who came to beat us were Trinamool Congress people." “Did you recognize anyone?" the reporter asks. “No, it was too dark, so I could not see them clearly."

Despite all the doubts and suspicions, this answer was enough for tension to erupt. The BJP got a new issue for posters, pasted all over the state, with the swollen face of this old lady and bold caption below it: “Isn’t she the daughter of Bengal?" Mamata Banerjee, who called herself the daughter of Bengal, had said a few days ago, “Bengalis will rule Bengal, not the outsider." The poster was a strong rebuttal to this.

It was a happy moment for the channels with 24x7 instant news. The footage was saleable, enough to telecast a high-pitch debate among the various party spokespeople. Then came the Trinamool Congress with a claim that it was a case of domestic violence and not political violence. The police were also in agreement. Other family members of the victim gave bytes in support and called themselves eyewitnesses. The couple, who said they were the grandson and daughters-in-law, called it a case of domestic violence. For the BJP spokesperson, this was a statement stemming from the pressure of the ruling party, while the ruling party’s statements were aimed at proving the elderly woman and her son were sold out.

As for the local police, the BJP has already labelled it as an agent of the state government. The Trinamool calls the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate, and the income tax department the pet parrots of the Centre. Let’s remember the shameful actions in the case of Kolkata Police commissioner Rajiv Kumar. Following the attack on the convoy and vehicle of BJP national president Jai Prakash Nadda, the Union home ministry had recalled three IPS officers from the West Bengal cadre. This in itself was a unique and very tough decision, but the fight did not stop here. Recently, ED’s summons to Mamata Banerjee’s daughter-in-law and the subsequent questioning gave a new dimension to the bitterness.

New controversies are being born every day in this Bangabhumi; they give political parties an axe to grind until the next plot is written. Such sad episodes will continue for a few more weeks. We all know the reason for this traumatic sequence. The BJP wants to win the state elections at any cost and Mamata Banerjee is fighting hard on the lines of not even giving an inch of its foothold. No one in this game is less of a fighter, so a new skit is created every time. The news is being fabricated. Every time it seems as if something new has come out from the depths of history after thousands of years. There is noise, there is furore, but facts and reasoning are lost somewhere.

We Indians always love theatrics, but it was not expected that the political drama and gimmicks would reach such an extent. This is why West Bengal is occupying the top position in the headlines, whereas other states are seen bubbling up in the background. However, they are no less important. If I start discussing the importance of Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry elections, then this space will prove to be inadequate. It is painful that even there, serious issues are missing. Leaders are either making exaggerated accusations or indulging in some kind of political stunt to make their feat go viral. Photos of top BJP leaders dining with farmers or Dalits made headlines, along with pictures of Rahul Gandhi trying to impress voters with push-ups in Tamil Nadu and Priyanka dancing with local women in Assam. Will this improve the condition of the farmers? Will Dalits be part of the mainstream with this? Or will the condition of women change and will most of the people who are malnourished be able to perform push-ups?

These questions have gone far behind this kind of political escapade.

In West Bengal, Trinamool has given the slogan ‘Khela Hobe’ (game on). The BJP took it up without any delay. Now the Congress and Left activists are also repeating this. The way this trend is spreading, it is natural to fear our democracy. Politics, after all, is a game played for the throne, but if morality is removed from it, it remains a mockery.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.

The views expressed are personal

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