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Mudda speakers slam politicians for making incendiary remarks for electoral gain and for paternalism, feel dissent is necessary for democracy as well as freedom of thought and expression

The level of public discourse has plunged to a new low. Even as some sections are baying for the blood of the makers of Padmavati, in Bihar, BJP chief Nityanand Rai has threatened that if any finger or hand is raised against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it should be chopped off. Later responding to the condemnation of his statement, the parliamentarian clarified that he merely used a figure of speech.

Of late, a pattern has emerged of some leaders making absurd statements that trigger a debate, and then the concerned party later clarifies that it was a personal remark made by the said leader. Anchorperson Anant Tyagi took up this issue with panellists KK Shukla of the BJP, Shahzad Poonawala of the Congress, Amir Haider of the CPI, Mahipal Singh Makrana of the Karni Sena, Anand Lal Banerjee, former DGP, SP Pandey, former judge, Pallav Sisodiya, Supreme Court advocate, and Govind Pant Raju, consultant, APN .

Shukla said that Rai’s remark should not be discussed as he has already said that the remark was made figuratively speaking. He wanted to know if Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has ever been made to apologise for his irresponsible remarks against the Indian army, or if politician Azam Khan apologised for saying that Dawood’s money is with SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav? He said that though the prime minister does not approve of people making loose remarks, many times, what politicians say has nothing to do with the official party line on the concerned issue.

Poonawala pointed out that it is not legally correct for political leaders to make derogatory remarks. Haider said that as far as he knows there is no figure of speech behind Rai’s “finger-threatening” remark.

Raju said that the remark was not innocent, and it was politically motivated. “If someone wants to point a finger at Modi, who should he not be allowed to do so? In a democracy leaders can and must be criticised,” he added.

Shukla said that Haider should look at what is happening in Kerala, the murders and the loot, instead of focusing on such inane remarks.

When Shukla said that frequently his father had doled out such threats to him as a child, Poonawala pointed out that the relationship of the citizens and the leaders is not like that of a father and a child; it’s like that between a sevak and a malik, he said.

Shifting the debate to Padmavati , Anant posed a question to Karni Sena leader Makrana who insisted that he wants a countrywide ban on Padmavati as history has been distorted.

Pandey said that political leaders can enjoy freedom of speech but they are under oath to protect the people. “How can political leaders dole out threats in public life?” he said.

Sisodia observed that public discourse is touching a new low, and TV channels, too, are responsible. He said that there is legal recourse for those who have been offended by public statements.

Shukla admitted that Modi himself does not like such mudslinging and the BJP is a cultured party and would like to distance itself from such low-level and insensitive remarks.

Haider said that since such remarks have been often made by the BJP leaders of late, these cannot be dismissed as personal remarks.

Quoting veteran journalist Arun Shourie, Poonawals said that “the situation now is worse than that of Emergency”.

Raju said that it is obvious that political leaders are making such remarks for political benefit, and in view of the Gujarat elections, it perhaps helps the party to deflect people’s attention elsewhere.

The debate then again moved back to Padmavati, and Sisodiya said that historical incidents are open to interpretation, and each person is welcome to stick to his or her own. He said that he himself is a Rajput from Mewar and finds nothing wrong with the release of the film.

Pandey said that the Karni Sena should not violate the rule of law, or else it can be made to face criminal action.

Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari

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