Name calling, defamatory statements and blatant disrespect are part and parcel of Indian politics. Politicians in India often prefer to influence the public through incendiary comments against the opposition rather than lining out their policies and provisions.
We as citizens of India have become quite used to this haven't we? Perhaps we even enjoy the slandering. However, it's time for Indian politics to grow up and evolve. There are two very recent examples that illustrate my point.
Taking names and disrespecting opponents is so engraved in the repertoire of Indian politicians that they just can't resist it.
First, Narendra Modi's infamous "raincoat" comment aimed at former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. While Modi is a brilliant orator—and indeed India needed a vociferous leader—some of his statements cross the bounds of propriety. I was frustrated with the comment Modi made on Manmohan Singh—"Bathroom mein raincoat pehen kar ke nahana, yeh kala to Doctor Saab hi jaante hain aur koi nahin jaanta hai." In the course of the speech he was giving in Parliament, he did not need to make such a jibe. It was uncalled for. As I listened to Modi's speech, I felt that it was going well. He was making his points succinctly. But I guess taking names and disrespecting opponents is so engraved in the repertoire of Indian politicians that they just can't resist it. Agreed—Manmohan Singh was not the most vocal of politicians, and this trait did not serve him well during his tenure. But, as the Finance Minister he was one of the most pivotal politicians during the 1990s. Narendra Modi being the current Prime Minister should mould his personality and act more maturely. Of course, then the counter-statements began almost as soon as the words left Modi's mouth, with Rahul Gandhi saying, "[Modi] likes to rake up people's janam patris, he only knows how to Google things, he likes to peek into bathrooms. Let him do that..." It is as if defamation begets defamation.
The second example is even more shocking because this statement was aimed at someone outside the political realm. West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh not only questioned Amartya Sen's contribution to Indian society but went on to call him "spineless" and that he can be "purchased or sold" and he "can stoop to any level."
I was lucky enough to see Amartya Sen some weeks back at the London School of Economics, where he shared the stage with prominent lawyer Asma Jilani Jahangir and gave a small talk on religious intolerance and freedom of expression in relation to Pakistan. Although Mr. Sen just added some comments to Ms. Jahangir's lecture, his depth of knowledge was evident. He is one of the most humble and modest personalities I have ever encountered.
Coming back to the BJP president's comments, it just goes on to show how the political class of India will not spare anyone who offers criticism. Amartya Sen has critiqued Narendra Modi on many occasions regarding the latter's policies. It is an undisputed fact that Mr. Sen is more than qualified to make comments on economic and social policies—he's won a Nobel Prize for a reason after all!
Dilip Ghosh did not stop there. He went on to slander the whole Bengali community by saying, "There was a time when the farsightedness, ideology and self esteem of Bengalis was a matter of pride. Unfortunately, things have completely reversed today."
Amartya Sen in response to the above statement replied in the most gentlemanly manner possible. He said that he had "no objection to the criticism" which was made by the BJP President and that "he has done what he has felt and has the right to do so if he feels so."
Indian politicians need the personality traits which Mr. Sen displays above. Class and dignity. He did not retaliate to the BJP president, although he had enough reason to do so.
The image of Indian politicians is not the best among the people. The least they can do is start acting maturely and recover some of the lost respect. Indian politics and the citizens deserve better.