Well meaning it might be, but there are still some niggles over the logic of it. Discount that this is an election that has already seen a huge jump in voting percentage, so there is no immediate urgency for such a measure. But even if you agree with the idea that everyone must be coerced into voting, Advani’s solution is a little self defeating. A fine is a good deterrent and might work. But how is it a punishment to make a man not vote because he has not voted? Most people who take a holiday during an election will happily take another one during the next polls.
The thing about Raj Thackeray’s oratory is that it is full of attitude without substance; finely crafted noise, if you will. He is, of course, no different from most politicians on this count, but there is always an underlying hint of violence in whatever he says. It is usually couched in themes like the rights of sons-of-the-soil, but, all said and done, it is no more or less than a good old stoking of xenophobia for political purposes.
Speaking in Mumbai on Sunday, he was back to his pet theme. DNA reported him saying, “No one knows what is going on in Maharashtra and especially here. This district is witnessing an influx of people who are engaged in all kinds of illegal activities... Issues like land grabbing too are unattended.”But consider this: his party often resorts to violence but it is never directed against these migrant-criminals that he seems so concerned about. Instead, his partymen beat up hardworking taxi drivers just because they are from states like Bihar or Uttar Pradesh.
Thackeray’s viewpoint comes from the culture of the Shiv Sena, from which he imbibed his politics. Sena leader Ramdas Kadam too offered a glimpse of how easy it is to revert to the mean. In a public gathering in Mumbai, which had Narendra Modi and Uddhav Thackeray on the dais, he embarked on an unexpected hate speech. Alluding to the 2011 Azad Maidan violence some time back, he said, “These Muslims attacked the police, burnt their vehicles, vandalised statues of martyrs, attacked women police. In Maharashtra, this land of Shivaji Maharaj, those who disrespect my mothers and sisters, Narendra Modi will take action against them.” Both Modi and Uddhav Thackeray tried to dissociate themselves from the vitriol later. After decades of openly targeting Muslims, the Sena under Uddhav Thackeray has been trying a mellower makeover, mainly because India has changed and the politics of hate loses more votes than it gets. Only Kadam is yet to understand it.
The Samajwadi Party’s Mumbai leader Abu Asim Azmi’s motto is that it is alright to say stupid things as long as they are on different topics. Fresh from being panned across the country for saying that in rape cases even women should be hanged, he put his other foot in his mouth this week. The Hindu reported that, at a rally in Mumbai, he said, “I urge North Indian voters to vote for the SP candidate in Mumbai on April 24th and then take the evening train to Uttar Pradesh and help the party win there as well.” He was of course echoing what Sharad Pawar said some time ago, but in Pawar’s case you could at least give him some benefit of doubt that he was joking. If you have ever heard Azmi, you know that he is not a man given to humour. He might even hang people who laugh too much.