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Moral Undertones in Mandate 2014

For me, the very first lesson of politics (way back in 2004) was that politics is a dirty, corrupt, shrewd and notorious game of power. All possible negative connotations were attached to politics and rightly so. Thinking about politics as a lay woman, I obviously understood it to be negative and undesirable - all about selfish interests of those occupying power positions. Politics is something all of us detest - not just the politics that is practiced in the form of "5 yearly" elections, but politics at the workplace, in the family (yes the personal is political too!) or politics of any kind, any where. We do not identify ourselves as 'political' despite the fact that all of us strive for some kind of interests or goals to be achieved. We desire to be seen as 'apolitical', and thereby 'moral'. Thus, you cannot be moral if you are into politics. This clear-cut and evident dichotomy between 'politics' and 'morality' is what makes politics undesirable and a despicable object. Morality is not supposed to be a part of politics - because politics is a far cry from the moral, the good, the valuable, the just. In fact, what politics and morality represent are complete opposites and the two cannot co-exist. That is why the 'good' are never into politics and those who are in politics can never be 'good'.

Despite this glaring dichotomy of goals and interests, what Mandate 2014 in India has done is to infuse morality into the political discourse. Far away from the kind of politics that Machiavelli or for that matter Chanakya prescribed (realpolitik), our netas are taking the moral highground as far as this particular election campaign is concerned. So, is politics devoid of any kind of morality or does infusing morality into politics signify anything but a highly 'political' act? The answer I believe lies in the way morality has been invoked (or rather manipulated) in the election discourse of 2014. Each and every campaign has tried to address the moral aspirations of people. Indians, anyhow have always lamented the lack of morality in our politics (if only netas were honest, upright, where would we find someone like Gandhiji and Sardar Patel today? Or these netas have no morals to claim of - these and many such statements are common parlance). 

Take Rahul Gandhi for example. All he wants is votes in the name of 'sacrifice' (moral undertone) done by his 'papa' and 'dadi' for the sake of the country. The other plank employed for votes is a pro-poor one (borrowing from Indira Gandhi's famous "Garibi hatao" pitch). So you should vote for Rahul because he is pro-poor (as manifested by NREGA, RTE and Right to Food), pro-women empowerment and hence moral. Of course, there is no mention of any kind of policy vision and the scams in the regime of the Congress party. According to Rahul, an immoral, corrupt and divisive BJP led by Narendra Modi will be akin to a moral threat to the unity, integrity and progress of India. So choose Rahul because he is the most 'moral' choice available to us right now (backed by the morality of brand Gandhi - so what if the brand itself is a falsely created one!!!). The Congress party seems to have taken morality so seriously that its campaign advertisements have children claiming that for a good (and morally enlightening future of theirs), the vote should go to the Congress party. 

Go to BJP and Narendra Modi and you feel as if there was no such moral candidate ever in the history of Indian politics. Modi has repeatedly attacked the Congress on the basis of their immorality in public life (namely corruption) and a mute Prime Minister remote controlled by a lady of Italian origin (how immoral to be governed by a lady of foreign origin - who still cannot speak proper Hindi!!!). Modi is also seen making moral copyright over the Gujarat model of development and in his interviews he is repeatedly heard emphasizing "mera Gujarat". His claim to moral fame is his address to his 125 crore Indians ("mere sava sau crore Bharatvasi"). He claims he will morally redeem the electorate from the tyranny of the family (maa and beta). On the other hand, the Congress questions these moral claims as it calls Modi a 'feku' (i.e. someone who exaggerates too much) and even questions his ability to take care of the country when he deserted his own wife (another moral undertone - in tune with the women empowerment theme). Congress is also busy portraying Modi as a demon and instilling a kind of moral fear among the minority community with its prediction of riots, communal violence and another partition if Modi is to come to power (supposedly moral because the unity of the country is at stake and only Congress can save it). To counter this, Modi uses the maa-beta jibe to emphasize the moral degradation that Congress brought to the country. So, while Maa Sonia is only bothered about beta Rahul and would happily sacrifice the country for him, Modi claims that he is here only to work for the country without any extra baggage of family responsibilities. 

The third player in this game (if at all it is considered as a contender) - the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cannot survive without claiming moral superiority. The punchline for the AAP's campaign was - We are the best, the rest are bad/immoral. AAP has successfully projected itself as the torchbearer of morality based politics and this is what has attracted young first-time voters to the party who have pinned their moral hopes on it. If the morality plank was not invoked (as it was in Delhi and now), the AAP campaign would lose its sheen and its basis of existence. The entire plank on which AAP's campaign is based is that people are fed up of the two morally corrupt and bankrupt parties and it is AAP that offers a moral choice to people, a way in which morality and goodness can be brought back to Indian politics. The last player in this game, the so called third front with as many leaders as fronts, claims moral high-ground by portraying itself as the only non-Congress (non-corrupt), non-BJP (secular) option available to people at this point of time. Not regarding the infighting and political and divisive claims to leadership even among the third front, it still presents itself as a moral and plausible option.

All said and done, this has left the junta perpetually and morally confused as to who is the best moral choice available to them, as each one claims that he/she is morally superior to the 'other'. Are such moral claims of any use when it quite an evident practice to abandon morality after elections and resort to a full play of power politics? Why deceive people by making unnecessary and exaggerated moral claims then? Moral one upmanship will be definitely abandoned once it is clear as to who is making claims to power and that will be on the 16th of May. The moral undertones employed in the campaign come out as utterly farcical because morality is a relative concept and there is no yardstick for judging the same. Also each one's morality is dependent on that of the 'other'. There are no independent claims on 'morality'. See for example the attacks that each one has come out with on the personal level - digging into each other's personal life for the benefit of political gains is surely not moral. So, while moral claims do appear to be good, all they do is divert attention from real issues/people's issues that an election discourse is suppose to address. 

We are definitely not going to see a return of morality into politics, not anytime in the near future ... till that time we may keep wondering as to where did all the moral overdose come from and where did morality actually disappear from politics? Or was it never meant for politics. I remain morally and politically disillusioned by all accounts!


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