(Published in Sify.com, on December 29, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/a-year-of-gaffes-why-don-t-our-politicians-shut-up-news-columns-mm3gDpggehd.html)
As 2012 yawns its way out, and the year some believed they would never see dawns, it strikes me that this was the year our politicians outdid themselves. Not only have the most important of them said the most stupid things, but they have usually been politically, factually, and grammatically incorrect.
I remember that towards the end of 2011, Anna Hazare killed some of the momentum his anarchy-inducing movement had gained by dissing folks who drink alcohol. Now, when you’re going on a fasting spree in Delhi, chances are that a bunch of your supporters will be bleeding-heart liberals, whose activism is largely advocated in watering holes. He sort of saved Montek Singh Ahluwalia, whose earlier estimate that making Rs 32 a day would put one above the poverty line had hogged headlines.
This year, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission was outdone by the long-reigning Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dixit, who said a poor family of five could live quite well, on a diet of “dal, roti, gehoon, chawal” at Rs 600 a month. Never mind that they can’t cook any of that with the hike in price of LPG. Surely poor families can eat raw cereal, eh?
All the attention was taken from chow mein when former Haryana Chief Minister suggested women should be married off early to prevent rape, as they were in the Mughal era. And that also took the heat off Sriprakash Jaiswal, who had made what he considered a witty remark – “Like old wives, old victories give no cause for celebration.”
However, nothing that has been said this year quite tops the flurry of faux pas that rolled off our elected leaders’ tongues after the bus-rape case in Delhi.
Embarrassing President Pranab Mukherjee is his son Abhijit, with his crack about “painted-dented shundoris” who were, according to him, overage, protesting against the rape case, and “showing off their children”. I’m not even sure which of my sensibilities is most shaken, but I think it bewilders the linguist in me the most. ‘Painted’, I can figure out. But what on earth is ‘dented’?! I’ve heard the term used mainly with reference to cars – depending on where it’s being said ‘denting’ is either damaging a car, or repairing the damage. But how does one deem a woman ‘dented’, unless he’d mixed it up with ‘banged’ or ‘knocked up’?
As for Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, he’s put his foot in his mouth so often over the last week that I wouldn’t be surprised if he had toes sticking out of his ears. Defending his right to refrain from going to India Gate to reason with the protesters, he snapped, “It is very easy to ask the Home Minister to go to India Gate and talk. Tomorrow if any other party’s demonstration goes on, why should not the Home Minister go there? Tomorrow Maoists will come here to demonstrate with weapons.” This doesn’t appear to have struck him when he appealed to the protesters to give themselves a break during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India. Step back, Rehman Malik. You have competition this side of the border.
While Rahul Gandhi, touted as the Congress’ Prime Ministerial candidate for 2014, has managed not to say anything stupid with regard to the rape yet, the usually reticent – and circumspect – Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh went and offended everyone who comes to Delhi in search of a better life, with his remark on “footloose migrants”.
In the same breath that he asked police not to lose sight of the human rights our citizens are entitled to, Singh told Indian Police Service probationers, “We have a large number of footloose young men who come to urban areas from rural areas in search of jobs, in search of livelihood strategies, and if they do not get well absorbed in the process of development in rural areas, they can become a menace in society.”
While we’ve been raising our eyebrows, rubbing our eyes, and shaking our heads, perhaps what bewilders us most is that we were somehow involved in bringing these people to power, and putting them on the podiums from which they spout their nonsense. From the looks of it, things won’t change in a hurry, but one wishes they would learn to shut up so we might fool ourselves just a little bit longer.