Move Over Duterte, It's Indian Politicians Who Lead The Political Abuse Bandwagon
NEW DELHI: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is back in the news for a not-very-Presidential threat, as he pledged to personally deal with a group of Islamist militants by publicly eating them alive, salt and vinegar thrown in for good measure.
Just days before the obvious outburst, Duterte called United States President Barack Obama a “son of a b*****” for the latter’s criticism of Philippines’ human rights record. Obama responded by promptly cancelling an upcoming meeting with the Philippines leader, leading to the beginning of a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
As outrageous as all of the above sounds -- insults are, and have been, a part of political speech. In India recently, former UP BJP vice-president Dayashankar Singh who had been expelled for comparing BSP Supremo Mayawati to a prostitute, followed up the insult by calling Mayawati a “dog” and accusing her of “running after money.” "She is a greedy woman and is like a dog that chases speeding motorcycle in lanes, but steps back when the vehicle stops," Singh said.
Or take the case of Lalu Prasad Yadav comparing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a super demon. The RJD chief, responding to a comment made by PM Modi, said "If I am a 'shaitan' because I am raising the voice against the RSS-BJP conspiracy to end reservations for Dalits and OBCs, Modi is a real 'Brahm Pishach' (super demon).”
Perhaps in no other country can the Prime Minister be openly referred to as ‘super demon’, but in India, all is fair in love and politics. Take the incident of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal hitting out at the PM for being a “psychopath.” Following raids on the home and office of a member of the AAP, Kejriwal said, “Modi is a coward and a psycopath [sic].”
The above shouldn’t be all that surprising given that in India, the Prime Minister himself has indulged in his share of name-calling. Lalu’s “super demon” comment in fact followed a statement from the PM that implied that the RJD boss had an affinity to the devil (shaitan).
Or take the incident where Narendra Modi called Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s wife at the time, Sunanda a “50-crore girlfriend.” Tharoor responded by saying his wife was “priceless” and worth much more than the “imaginary 50 crore”.
The entire Congress party, in fact, has been in the line of fire, when Modi compared the party's 'palm' symbol to "Khooni Panja" (Bloody Claws) and "Zaalim Hath" (Cruel Hand).
And perhaps no Indian politician in recent times knows what it feels like to be insulted better than Congress President Sonia Gandhi, whose Italian-origin has been the source of various jibes. Modi has been known to refer to Sonia Gandhi as "Madam", and former BJP leader Pramod Mahajan once compared her to Monica Lewinsky. The VHP’s Pravin Togadia openly called Gandhi an “Italian b****.” Her son, Rahul Gandhi, is often referred to as ‘Shazada’ (Prince) openly in political circles and addresses.
Sonia Gandhi too doesn’t have a clean record when it comes to political abuse, having referred to Modi as "Maut Ka Saudagar" (merchant of death) in the Gujarat assembly elections in 2007.
Inter political bickering aside, in India even fellow party members are not spared. Manohar Parrikar, who is now Defence Minister but was at the time Goa chief minister, took a potshot at one of the senior most leaders of his own party, LK Advani, when he called him a “rancid pickle” who should retire.
While Indian politicians may be leading contenders when it comes to the world of political abuse, the international arena is not far behind. Take the recent rise of Donald Trump, who has made potshots at political opponents a mainstay of his presidential campaign. Trump has called rival Hillary Clinton everything from the devil to the founder of the Islamic State. Another time, in a tweet that was at the same time sexist and vulgar, Trump said, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
Trump has not spared US President Barack Obama, calling him the “worst ever President” and repeatedly raising doubts about whether Obama was indeed born in the US.
In Europe, perhaps the leading proponent of foot-in-the-mouth political gaffes is Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who is now Britain’s foreign secretary. His crowning moment is a limerick that he penned a limerick calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an a “wanker” and implied that the latter enjoyed carnal relations with a goat. The limerick goes: “There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer. Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”
The proof in the pudding that political abuse is rewarded: Johnson won a 1000 GBP cash prize for his poem after it was entered into a rude poem competition.