Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Taming the likes of Varun Gandhi

Varun Gandhi has been in the news these past few weeks for all the wrong reasons. First his speech that he delivered at an election rally was criticized by all and sundry. The Election Commission(EC) even asked his party, the BJP, to drop him as their candidte from the Pilbhit Lok Sabha constituency.
The BJP ignored the EC and continues to back Varun Gandhi. Top leaders from the BJP condemned the speech, but the party leadership has so far failed to back their words with action.
Later the UP Govt launched cases against Mr Gandhi. He was denied bail and he made a great media circus of his arrest. To be fair he was only doing what any politician in his situation would do.
So far people have criticized Mr Gandhi's speech for being against the constitution, for trying to polarize the voters in Pilbhit, for going against the very nature of India's secular credentials etc. However, so far, things seem to have gone exactly the way Mr Gandhi would have wanted them to. He's become the new poster boy of Hindutva. From being in the side-lines, he's been catapulted right in to the centre of the national political scene. If he wins this election, he will no doubt be a central figure in the BJP's central/state committees.
I don't have much knowledge in Law or the Constitution. However, I see that in cases like Varun Gandhi and Raj Thackeray, the use of Law has actually back-fired and society is worse off than it was before they made their speeches/comments. There are countless others from all regions/religions/castes who use the same means to get political mileage.
These hate- politicians derive their political capital by going against the establishment. They criticize others belonging to different castes/race/region/religion and feed on the anger and resentment that the general population feel.
I might not be popular for suggesting this, but I'm going to anyway. We need to let these politicians speak freely. Not make it a criminal offense every time they spew their venom. The idea behind this being that when they are doing nothing illegal they cannot be heroes. People who have resentment should be allowed to voice their frustrations.
We need to be more confident in our people, in our democracy. I believe that initially these people will make the most of the situation. But later on the voter will become smarter and more experienced and will make a more informed and intelligent choice. We have seen this happen in different parts of the country already. In the heat of the moment some elections will go to these fanatics. However, in the long term, elections are always won on performance, and that's when people will realize the true value of each candidate.
Now giving these people freedom comes with riders. If Mr Varun Gandhi claims that Muslims do so and so... it should be within the rights of every citizen to ask him to prove his claims in a court of law. If he's not able to he should face the consequences. This idea might seem extreme. But it's based on my belief that the truth is supreme. Sometimes the truth gets muddled up in all the politicking that goes on. When each person is held to whatever he says then we will be able to separate the actual from the factual, the real from the fake/make-believe.
Now we will need to go more in depth and be more specific on the right to freedom of speech and it's many interpretations. I'm not going to go there. All I wanted to do through this post is to get my readers thinking along these lines. I hope I've done that.

No comments: