Threats, diatribes take campaigning to new lowApril 9th, 2009 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS
By V.S. Karnik
Bangalore, April 9 (IANS) The manifestos of political parties appear to have sunk without a trace even before the elections begin. Instead, threat words like “chop off”, “kick” and “behead” or below the belt jibes hurled at opponents are dominating campaign speeches.
What started in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Varun Gandhi’s reported hate speech is spreading across India at a disconcertingly fast pace. As the first date of polling nears, the voices are getting more shrill.
Take, for example, the words of a pro-Hindutva leader in Karnataka who has promised to conduct ‘thithi’ - the Kannada equivalent of post death rituals - for those who oppose Hindutva ideology.
It began when former Congress minister Kagodu Thimmppa reportedly said at a public meeting in Shimoga district that the hands of those who propagate Hindutva should be cut off.
BJP legislator M.P. Renukacharya responded by saying that those against Hindutva should be beheaded.
On Monday, another BJP legislator and party spokesperson, C.T. Ravi, said even before people could raise their weapons to cut off the hands of Hindutva supporters, their ‘thithi’ would be performed. He said this at a public meeting in Hassan district.
The poll campaign in Karnataka has hit the nadir as far as bad language goes.
Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who belongs to the BJP, has reportedly used the term ’sheep’ to describe Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) candidates. His predecessor and JD-S candidate from Bangalore rural constituency H.D. Kumaraswamy has said such people will get a kick.
Umesh Katti, who crossed over from the JD-S to BJP to become a minister in the Yeddyurappa government, has suggested that JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda be sent to the slaughterhouse as he is a old. Gowda is past 75.
Another BJP minister and mining magnate, G. Janardhana Reddy, has called Kumaraswamy a thief. Kumarawamy, who has been at loggerheads with the cash-rich mining barons of BJP, retorted he would like to see Janardhana Reddy in handcuffs.
State BJP president D.V. Sadananda Gowda is also not far behind. He has said some Congress candidates cannot even tie their ‘panche’ (traditional dress south Indian men wear) if it falls off. Several Congress candidates are in their early 70s or late 60s.
What is hardly audible in this din is the manifesto promises of parties - such as rice at Rs.2 or Rs.3 a kg, free power supply to farmers and farm loan waiver.
With two weeks still left for the first phase of voting April 23 in 17 of the 28 constituencies in Karnataka, it looks like campaigning tactics will degenerate further. Voting in 11 constituencies will take place April 30.
(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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