New Delhi, May 15 Prime Minister Narendra Modi's re-election bid was likely to have hinged on subjects he has tried to showcase during his tenure -- ease of doing business, cutting red tape and the big heave-ho that was delivered to the Indian economy. The term used to describe him early into his prime ministership was "Disruptor". Nationalism was meant to be the muscular padding that kept the vote bank safe. But, General Election 2019 will be known for the virulent abuse-fest that it has become.
Each epithet appears to get a momentum all on its own. On May 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a dig at Congress President Rahul Gandhi's father Rajiv Gandhi and said the former PM's life ended as "corrupt no 1". "Your father was termed 'Mr Clean' by his courtiers, but his life ended as 'Bhrashtachari No 1' (corrupt number 1)," he said.
That remark drew the battlelines, with forces arraigned on either side -- those who felt insulting a former Prime Minister who had been assassinated was reprehensible and others who felt that being assassinated or martyred did not mean Rajiv Gandhi could not be criticised for his record in government. For the record, the Prime Minister has raised the matter again.
Modi is no stranger to personal attacks on him and this election has been no different. As he accused the Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati of shedding crocodile tears over the Alwar rape case, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister countered it by asking, "How can he respect others' sisters and wives when he has left his own wife for political gains? It is my special appeal to women of this country not to vote a person like this. PM Modi, in this election, kept changing his caste according to the situation."
Mayawati continued: "In BJP, married women leaders get scared when they see their husbands around PM Modi. They fear that this Modi will separate them from their husbands," she said at the press conference in Lucknow.
That very day, the BJP and the Trinamool Congress traded insults in West Bengal. At an election rally, BJP President Amit Shah said about Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, "We will restore the glory of Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has turned 'sonar' (golden) Bangla into 'kangal' (pauper) Bangla. She is only interested in protecting infiltrators to secure her vote bank. But her vote bank won't be able to save her from imminent defeat."
Trinamool Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien retaliated with the words "puke-worthy" and low life in a tweet, "That puke-worthy Shah had the audacity to use the term 'Kangal Bangla' today at a rally. The people of Bengal will give him and Modi a fitting reply in Phase 7. That #LowLife insults Bengal."
BJP members say that Congress should be blamed for lowering the discourse. They point in this connection to the 'Chowkidar chor hai' slogan coined by Rahul Gandhi. The sharp personal attack on Rajiv Gandhi, political observers believe, has been triggered by this very remark. The Prime Minister and BJP members have consistently targeted the former Prime Minister on corruption and for allegedly using the INS Viraat to host friends on a holiday trip.
For their part, some indefatigable Modi baiters in the Congress have shown no signs of backing down. One of them is the former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar who justified the offensive 'Neech Aadmi' remark against the Prime Minister -- he was suspended by the Congress for two years following that remark -- in two opinion pieces. That was preceded by Sam Pitroda's "Hua to hua" remark on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
In response, head of BJP's IT cell Amit Malviya tweeted: "Upset that Sam Pitroda was getting all the attention, the irrepressible Mani Shankar Aiyar pulls Pitroda's foot out of his mouth and puts it in his..."