Elections to 5 states in India is on. These are supposedly for local state Assembly constituencies. West Bengal, my home state, is one such. Over the last few months and more so, there is pandemonium around. The political sensitiveness of the State, gives rise to all kind of activities, disruptions, deliberations, which appear highly polarised and is disturbing. The poor COVID-19, has been pushed to the background and people for whom the vote is sought is under attack from all corners.
Bengal was always politically sensitive. Very charged environment prevailed, when it came to elections. But there was an environment of civility and intellectualism, in the discussions. Parties, Groups and people used to attack each other with their ideology and on social discriminations, terming some as capitalists or bourgeois etc. The war between haves and have nots prevailed. Religion was never a centrepiece. The beauty was, you were able to address your personal religious sentiments privately, as you wished. I remember, it was perhaps in the 60s early 70s or thereabouts, there was a big wall campaign against the Congress by the Communists, which said something like this in Bengali:
“AS PER THE DOCTORS, COWS LIVE A MAXIMUM OF 20 YEARS”.
……..those days, Congress’s election symbol was a pair of Cows tilling the soil. This kind of intelligent campaigning was in evidence. Not to be left outdone, the Congress responded with another campaign, targeting the Left Parties that said:
“TENANT ON TOP, AND TENANT BELOW, AND THE POOR, DOWNTRODDEN IN THE MIDDLE”
In those days, West Bengal’s Communist leader and later CM, stayed in a 3-storey house and the reference was to his kind of supposed personal wealth, as he had claimed to be a voice of the “have-nots”. Gone are those days. Today’s political campaign, aggressive language used, personal attacks in speeches coming from the high order of political hierarchy is a nightmare.
I believe this is not sustainable.
Somewhere, the civil society’s role in all this, is becoming serious. Civil Society needs extreme environment to revolt. Say, like the NIRBHAYA time, when youth came on to the streets and the Political System was forced to take some decisions and peace prevailed. Interestingly, no one from the main political spectrum, makes the NIRBHAYA upsurge as a social issue today, or a civil society revolts against the political system. We have quietly forgotten what was the source of NIRBHAYA. Billions of dollars are spent by the political parties for elections. Can we just pause for a while and ask “why”? Billions of dollars are spent by the political ecosystem to come to power, then, to stay in power and finally to come back to power.
Is it all worth it? Is the silent civil society listening? Is it time for the Civil Society at large, to wake up and say, enough is enough!!!
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