As five states go to the polls, it is election season again. Once again, our public discourse is replete with abuses, insinuations and canards. Inflation, health, security and other critical issues are deftly bypassed by the media, which refuses to ask the government pertinent questions. Old promises are repackaged and there is no accountability over unfulfilled promises.
In the rare instance that the government has to address such issues, the media prompts a response to digress from matters of national importance. And when teleprompters fail, the media plays demagogue to rescue the government from difficult questions. Once the elections conclude, the media pretends that the issues are redundant as though the elections were a referendum on poor policies. Issues are not flavours or fashions which diminish after a ‘season’. Bad policy must be questioned and answers sought. Accountability must be sought no matter how much tome has lapsed.
Due to the scourge of a pliable media, people have almost forgotten that only a year ago, the BJP was in a self-congratulatory mood. The Prime Minister was thanked for bringing in the controversial farm laws. While the media cheered the ‘masterstroke of the season’, those opposed to the farm laws were dubbed anti-national. Numerous BJP legislators accused the agitating farmers of being tacitly supported by ‘anti-national’ forces and it was insinuated that the protesting farmers, particularly from Punjab, were ‘Khalistanis’. The BJP brazenly passed a resolution on 21st February 2021, thanking the PM for the three farm laws. BJP National Vice President claimed that the protesting farmers were being supported by the Congress party. Perhaps the people of Punjab should keep this in mind when they go to the polls on 20th February.
When the farm laws were repealed in December, the government did not explain why it was so adamant about passing the laws without consulting the farmers of discussing it in the parliament. Perhaps due to a flaw in the infamous teleprompter, the BJP too did not pass a resolution to thank the PM for his latest masterstroke of repealing the farm laws. There was no explanation; no apology.
In another affront on the federal structure of India, the government did not explain why it legislated on agriculture—an item of the state list—without consulting the states. The opposition was not allotted time in the parliament to question the government on the enactment and repeal of the farm laws without debate and deliberation. The government even refused to acknowledge the farmers who died in the protests and simply washed its hands off, just as it had done during its disastrous demonetization drive. To date, the government has not explained why demonetization was necessitated at the cost of ruining the Indian economy.
In the same resolution which was passed on February 21st 2021, the PM was also thanked for his “courageous, constructive and far-sighted approach during the Covid pandemic” and for gifting vaccines to 17 countries. Every Indian knows what happened in the months that followed. As people made frantic calls for help, and people died without help and medicines, the PM went incognito. There was no semblance of governance as people died in hospitals, homes and on the streets. A minor diplomatic spat ensued after the New Zealand Embassy tweeted an SOS message to the Congress party—which had by then taken upon itself to help people in distress—requesting an oxygen cylinder for one of its staffers. The BJP government finally intervened and had the tweet deleted. In the subsequent days the Youth Congress President was questioned by the Delhi Police.
After the deadly second wave subsided, leaving almost every Indian family bereaved, the government was finally visible. It sought to legitimize the grossly underreported number of lives lost. It feigned ignorance of the number of bodies dumped into the Ganga River or buried in shallow graves on the banks in Uttar Pradesh. The people of Uttar Pradesh are going to the polls too and they deserve answers as well.
In fact, it is the right of ever citizen to seek answers, whether there are elections or not; whether they support the government or not. No matter how old the questions are, they must be answered. If the media won’t ask questions and shields the government from criticism, it is incumbent on us as duty-bound citizens to question the government. We owe it our democracy; we owe it to our loved ones who perished in the second wave.
(The views expressed above are the author’s own. Newsd neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)