The campaign narratives in this Lok Sabha elections seem to have incredibly turned into bizarre cacophony and nothing else. For the sitting government in the Centre, the narrative revolves only around Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We do not see any MP asking the electorates to vote for him or her. Instead, they are all asking the masses to vote for Modi, as though they have no identity of their own, and as though Modi is the all-pervasive spirit living in them. In fact there is also no BJP or NDA for that matter. The party that ruled at the Centre and its leaders seem to build the election narrative only around one demagogue called Modi. In fact Sambit Patra, the alter-ego of Modi in television studios, who is contesting from Puri in Odisha, seemed to articulate it quite well. He said, “Each candidate contesting across India represents a miniature version of Modi. We are fighting not with our names; we are fighting with the name of our supreme leader Narendra Modi.”
It is as though we must forget all the promises that were made in the erstwhile election campaigns and vote for ‘the supreme leader’. Doesn’t matter if myriad problems are besetting India today, many of them arguably due to the famous ‘radical’ decisions the government took. But we shall all vote for the ‘supreme leader’, for after all he can push all problems under the carpet through his mesmerising rhetoric!
I am just wondering, what a golden opportunity just lost! It is not everyday that one can gather thousands, at times lakhs, of people in one place. Election campaigns of major leaders attract phenomenal crowds. And what happens in these rallies? The masses are served only negative diets. They are served only sarcasm and mockery and insults aimed at the opposition. They are served lies and non-issues. What if these rallies were used to educate people, at least for a few minutes, on critical issues that bog India down? What if our leaders spoke at least for a few minutes on the importance of water in these difficult days, and the need to conserve water? And of climate change? And the importance of planting trees, keeping our cities, our surroundings clean? I am not hearing any leader worth the salt even pretending to address these concerns.
Of course, can we expect all this during electioneering when so much is at stake? Is it not too much to ask the leaders to change the election narratives when they have so many faults of the opposition to highlight? In fact, the best of manifestos of political parties speak of very many issues from the point of view of only making a point against the opposition. Mitt Romney after losing the 2012 Presidential elections in the US said, “I lost my election because of my campaign, not because of what anyone else did.” We are not sure if campaigns forever will win elections in India. However, campaigns could very well win nation’s favour for educating the masses on their collective responsibility in addressing serious issues.
Melwyn Pinto teaches Journalism and Mass Communication at St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangalore. He has a Ph.D in the subject and is also the Director of Community Radio Sarang, being broadcast from the College premises.