07/05/2019 1:47 PM IST

No Truth, Only Dare? Modi And Opposition Leaders Have Reduced This Election To A Game

Contest from Kerala, drink poison, arrest for saying 'Jai Shri Ram': Modi's Rajiv Gandhi dare to Congress is only the latest in a series this election season.

Truth or dare?

For politicians in India, the choice seems obvious. Of the hundreds of thinkpieces that will be written after the 2019 election, at least some will focus on the vitriol spewed, the politicisation of basically everything (from armed forces to terror attack), the Election Commission’s reluctance to chastise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s blatantly communal utterances and yes, the dares that politicians keep giving each other.

Everything from drinking poison to a good ol’ debate has been proposed. 

On Monday, Modi threw a challenge at the Congress, asking it to contest the remaining phases of the Lok Sabha elections in the name of Rajiv Gandhi, whom he recently dubbed as “bhrashtachari no. 1”.

“A few days ago I had called a member of the naamdar parivar as ‘bhrashtachari (corrupt) no. 1’ and some people got such a severe stomach ache that they started crying aloud. The more they cry, the more will today’s generation come to know of the old truths. 

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“How a family looted the country in the 20th century, destroyed it — the youth of the country should know. I am challenging the Congress from this dais that when polling takes place in the remaining phases in Punjab, Delhi and in Bhopal let it fight the elections in the name of Rajiv Gandhi,” Modi said at a rally in Jharkhand. 

The BJP and its footsoldiers have been scrambling since then to undo the damage caused by Modi’s tasteless reference to Rajiv Gandhi’s death.

Modi’s dare is just the latest among many that have been thrown around in the 2019 polls. Here are the others. 

One dare here, one dare there

On Monday, Modi dared West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to arrest him for chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’, a day after three people were taken into police custody in Ghatal for allegedly mouthing the slogan as her convoy passed by.

“Didi has thrown people in jail for chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. I thought of saying Jai Shri Ram here today so that she can throw me inside jail too. That way, the people of Bengal might be protected from the wrath of TMC regime,” Modi said at a rally in West Bengal.

Banerjee, on the other hand, has challenged “expiry babu” (her current favourite name for the PM) to participate in a direct debate with her on television or in a public rally.

She has also dared Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah to compete with her on chanting Sanskrit mantras. 

“Puja does not only mean sporting a tilak, Amit (Shah) babu and (Narendra) Modi babu. Come have a competition of mantras with me. Let’s see who knows more Sanskrit mantras,” Mamata said at a rally in Kolkata.

The seat saga

In April, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor dared Modi to show courage and contest from a seat in Kerala or Tamil Nadu. This came after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi announced his decision to fight from Wayanad, apart from Amethi

Shah had dared Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to contest against Modi from Varanasi, according to India Today.

Debate, debate, debate

Apart from Banerjee’s challenge to a public debate, Rahul Gandhi called Prime Minister a “darpok” (coward) and dared him to a five minute face-to-face debate on issues such as Rafale and national security. 

He had also thrown an “open book” challenge at Modi and listed three topics for a debate. 

“Dear PM, scared of debating me on corruption? I can make it easier for you. Let’s go open book, so you can prepare: 1. RAFALE+Anil Ambani, 2. Nirav Modi, 3. Amit Shah+Demonetisation,” Gandhi had tweeted.

Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu also dared Modi for a debate on BJP’s manifesto for the 2014 elections. 

And, the best (or, the worst?) of them all:

‘Consume poison, survive’

A Gujarat minister asked Rahul Gandhi to consume poison to check if he was indeed an ‘avatar’ of Lord Shiva as claimed by his party workers.

Gujarat tribal development minister Ganpat Vasava said Rahul Gandhi’s “Shiva reincarnation” theory (which he attributed to the Congress) can be proven only if he survives after having “500 grams of poison”.

Lest you think that the election madness is over, here’s a reminder that there are two more phases and the counting day to go. 

(With PTI inputs)