Name-calling, jibes: Political discourse in poll-bound Telangana hits new lows

A culture critic says that these politically insensitive remarks are nothing but the leaders wishing to succeed in the feudal culture they represent.
Name-calling, jibes: Political discourse in poll-bound Telangana hits new lows
Name-calling, jibes: Political discourse in poll-bound Telangana hits new lows
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Name-calling and jibes at opponents are becoming commonplace in Telangana in the run-up to the elections. The incidents were brought to the notice of the Election Commission, forcing it to issue notices to the politicians.

On Friday, Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar issued notices to TRS’s Harish Rao, Congress’ A Revanth Reddy and V Pratap Reddy and TDP’s Revuri Prakash Reddy of TDP after going through evidence and complaints which alleged that the used foul language and made personal remarks. The EC has asked the leaders to give an explanation for their 'objectionable' remarks within two days, and urged the leaders of the political parties to abide by the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The barbs are becoming more objectionable, especially with leaders making these remarks at public gatherings. In turn, these videos are going viral on social media platforms, and is trickling down to local WhatsApp groups, where cadres of the parties follow their leaders’ example.

The statements

The row began with Congress leader Vonteru Prathap Reddy claimed during a campaign meeting in Gajwel that Harish Rao is in touch with him. Prathap, the candidate the Congress is fielding against caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, alleged at a campaign gathering that there are rifts in the top rung of the TRS, which also consists of members of KCR’s family.

Claiming that Harish Rao called him from an unknown number, Prathap said that this is what Harish Rao told him: “Even after working hard for the party for 14 years, after the state was formed, everything is being given to my brother in law (KT Rama Rao, caretaker IT Minister and KCR’s son). Prathap, defeat my uncle, and I will work with you. In case you need financial assistance, I'm ready to provide it.”

This statement quickly garnered attention and gave rise to speculations of rifts in the family of the TRS patriarch.

Telangana-Telugu Desam Party (T-TDP) leader Revuri Prakash Reddy said that Harish Rao has worked hard in the hope that he will be the KCR’s successor, and despite that, he is being cornered. The TDP and Congress are both part of the Mahakutami.

While stating that Harish is behind the victories of KCR, Prakash Reddy said, “If there was no Harish Rao, KCR would have got buried in the political timeline a long time ago. I won’t comment on whether what Prathap said is true or false, but given the circumstances, it is no wonder.”

In response to their jibes, Harish Rao accused them of involving in “cheap tricks”. He alleged that the TDP and Congress are scared of the TRS, and are making “comments which are directionless" in order to deceive. Harish Rao further termed the campaign against him as a “Goebbels campaign”, referring to Adolf’s Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

“As a last-ditch effort, they are resorting to cheap tricks. If such mindless talks are continued like this, we will cut off your tongue, let me warn you," Harish Rao said.

Congress working President Revanth Reddy, known for objectionable remarks against KCR and his family, commented on the allegations made by Prathap Reddy. He also took a dig at KCR.

KCR, KTR and Harish Rao have reportedly been referring to the chief ministerial candidate of the Mahakutami as a “sealed cover CM” -- one that has been decided by the higher-ups of the party and one who will listen to them. Taking a dig at this, Revanth said, “If Mahakutami candidate is 'sealed cover CM', isn't it better than your cheap liquor CM?,” calling KCR an alcoholic.

He went on to add that KCR knows about the tricks up Harish Rao’s sleeve, which is why he won’t believe him.

"Harish Rao can't prove his loyalty even if he walks on fire. KCR will not believe. Even if Harish beheads himself and gives to KCR, he would say that it is a watermelon, as he (KCR) knows how you have cheated all the people who have believed you. He knows what all you have done clearly,” Revanth said.

He further added that Harish is attacking the Mahakutami just to make KCR believe him.

In October, soon after launching his campaign, KCR, while addressing a gathering in Wanaparthy district, reportedly used demeaning and informal language while referring to former Minister and senior Congresswoman DK Aruna, triggering criticism from opposition parties. However, he is reportedly not the only one to do so. 

Use of body language

While the language and foul remarks by politicians may violate the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), several Cultural and Language studies critics are opining that the trend is antithetical to democratic principles. Author, cultural critic and Kendriya Yuva Sahithya Awardee Pasunuri Ravinder, speaking to TNM said that the language and the choice of the words chosen by any politician will reflect their ideology. Observing the current trend, he said, "The present political campaign/speeches are nothing but the leaders wish to succeed in the feudal culture they represent. They're thinking that anything that they speak will gain currency. Their language while addressing gatherings is also very akin to demeaning vulnerable sections of society like women, Dalits and other communities.”

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