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Right Speech

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There are those who have praised Rahul Gandhi’s latest speech in Parliament. Others are going gaga over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘carpet bombing’ of the Congress in his response. Great! Way to go! Have at it! Nobody is getting hurt; onlookers are finding it almost as entertaining as India winning the U-19 Cricket World Cup. It is so much better than politics causing people to riot in the streets and kill each other. It is persuasion against compulsion.

People should encourage enlightened debate by providing proactive support to logic and facts, as against blind belief. The opportunity for this comes especially at election time. Politicians, particularly the entrenched ones, try hard through use of money and muscle power to overcome reason by appealing to the baser sentiments of hate, prejudice and anger. In the modern day, technology, AI and statistical modeling are increasing being used to shape public opinion and social behaviour for the achievement of political goals. The escalation of the ‘hijab row’ in Karnataka is only one example of this. Attempts at polarisation on the basis of caste and community have escalated to the point in the UP election campaign that any rational discussion on the state’s actual requirements is nearly impossible.

Of course, the choice for people is clear when there is an outstanding politician, who performs well in governance and in the legislature. However, to ensure that society and politics go in the right direction, the ‘nudge’ principle should be used to give even the slightly better an advantage. This should involve the respective party’s ideology, stated objectives, as well as quality of candidate. Sometimes, there is the right person in the wrong party, or vice versa. How to make the choice? Broadly, the personal qualities of the candidate should matter.

At the same time, for a better functioning democracy, every ideology needs some representation in the legislative bodies – just so that they can make the alternative opinion known, if even it does not find acceptance by the majority. An Asaduddin Owaisi, for instance, whose politics is rooted in the Islamic worldview, successfully articulates his arguments in constitutional terms largely because he manages to get elected to the Lok Sabha. If he is prevented from making his point on this forum, he would evolve in the opposite direction towards a more fundamentalist approach. Given his intellectual abilities, that would not be good for those whom he represents, as well as for the nation. Mainstreaming all should be the objective, rather than creating ghettos of the poorly represented and marginalised.