(Brig (retd) GB Reddi
All’s fair in love and war is a proverb frequently used when two people are contending for the love of a third, which is traced to poet John Lyly’s novel “Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit,” published in 1579.
Love is lawless; and, players cheat. So also, War is lawless; and victory is based on deception.
Similarly, murky politics today is lawless, but with difference. Political rivals not only cheat each other but also the voters.
Most appropriate, therefore, would be expanded version of the proverb to represent Indian politics: All’s fair in love, war and politics.
The concept behind the phrase is that some areas of life are so important and overwhelming that you cannot blame someone for acting in their own best interest.
Viewed in the foregoing, there was nothing wrong if the Congress Party leaders invocated ‘clichés’ in the past and the ongoing choicest ‘name calling’ in pursuit of their best self interests to include: “Maut ka Saudagar (2007)” by Sonia Ghandy to cash in on votes based on Godhra communal crisis; “Chaiwala (2014)” by Mani Shankar Iyer and also Digvijay Singh in September 2017; ‘Khoon ki Dalali’ (in the backdrop of surgical strike conducted by the Indian Army) by Rahul Ghandy pre-recent UP elections. “Gabbar Singh Tax” by Rahul Ghandy; “Chaiwala” repeat Youth Congress abusive meme leading to backlash; etc.
Despite the past Gujarat blunders and electoral defeats, Congress leaders continue to fail to learn lessons especially during pre poll campaign blitz. Nazi “Goebbels” propaganda theory continues to shape their information war machine – repeat the same story many times, it would become truth.
But, Modi has tactfully used or uses such barbs/jibes/memes to his own advantage to highlight his humble origins and attack the Congress for its “Dynastic” obeisance; none can blame him also in pursuit of his own self best interests.
It is the only way to justify the ongoing ‘no-holds’ barred campaigning in Gujarat. Ultimately, people of Gujarat will deliver their poll verdict over such ‘below-the-belt’ punches.
Of course, distraction, deception and disruption are the tactics of politics and politicians to gain strategic ends – power by hook or crook.
The only solace or consolation is that the current political atmosphere even in the so called highly civilized and developed nations like USA, UK, and Germany etc is more vicious than India’s.
As Sun Tzu explained 25 centuries ago, “all warfare is based on deception.” For war, this implies that spies, torture, lying, backstabbing, making deals with enemies, selling out allies, bombing civilians, wounding instead of killing, and so on are “fair game” in the sense that by taking these options off of the table you are only hurting yourself: Your opponent has no reason to comply to your moral standards.
Of course, rumors, conspiracy theories and fabricated information are nothing new. False information is a part of our lives, whether it is individuals lying to save face or prevent hurt feelings, politicians making unrealistic promises during election campaigns, corporations using false claims to damage their competitors or the media disseminating misleading stories to gain a wider audience.
Ipso facto, social media has added an entirely new dimension to politics. Leaders and political parties have set up full time IT-Social Network cells to easily create and disseminate false information and with the help of bots, organized groups, or targeted ads to amplify them.
Thus, Media houses have mastered Sun Tzu’s prescription.
Analysts have coined new terms like “information disorder – misinformation, disinformation and mal-information – to give a more sophisticated twist to “Paid, Fake and Fraud” news coverage.
Misinformation is when there is an unintentional mistake, such as the poor use of statistics or quotes, or when an old image resurfaces – use of file photos.
Disinformation is when false or manipulated information or imagery is deliberately used to do harm to someone. (The Face book ads created by Russia and targeted at US voters during the presidential election would be an example of this).
Malinformation is when genuine information is used to cause harm to someone (for example revenge porn).
Let me reiterate that politics is power; power is politics. Hypocrites, feigning as leaders, are in the fray in ruthless pursuit of power. Politics usually involve distrust, dislike, biter partisanship; and dishonest and hate filled acrimony and rivalry. No rules. No place for weak kneed. Totally lawless despite Election Commission authority.
Next, add yet another famous quote “Today friends, Tomorrow enemies; To many times you’ve stabbed my back; To many times you’ve let me down; I prefer to move on by myself; Than see you close to me ever again.”
Its reverse – Today’s enemies, Tomorrow friends or “Aye Ram, Gaye Ram” – is also real. No ideologies. “Party Hopping” is quite endemic.
Also, “No permanent friends, but permanent interests”; self first, always and forever; and society and nations last, always and forever.
Lenin stated “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience.” Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels (William Pit and Samuel Johnson); and, “Politics is the last resort for the scoundrels” (George Bernard Shaw). How can ‘scoundrels’ turn into ‘Angels” on assuming power!
Political expediency and opportunism – rich through tax cuts, poor through welfare measures, and minorities through special privileges and so on – governs leadership and political party’s ideologies. Let none suffer from illusions.
However, negative state of politics plunges nations and societies in permanent or perpetual turmoil and crisis; and institutions defaced and destroyed.
As events are unfolding world over, remember always democracy promotes divisiveness in pluralistic societies. And, it is a “rich-man’s game”. Muscle and money power govern poll outcomes. Also, intrigue, treachery and corruption are real. Its natural fallout is inevitability of political and social gridlock – perpetual paralysis. Forging consensus is for namesake only. Unity in democracy is, therefore, anathema – with politics dividing society angrily on narrow parochial and sectarian lines.
In general, the personality traits of politicians in today’s and emerging world include: megalomaniacs, ego-centrists, jingoists, opportunists, dishonest, hypocrites, congenital liars, octopuses or chameleons changing colors as per situations and survival instincts, indulge in vendetta, conspiracy, witch hunt, hate-games, ‘sail with the wind’ to survive, “something today and say something diametrically opposite at the next event/moment” etc.
De facto today, there is steep decline in political morality is a reality. And, politicians justify their dramatic changes or shifts in ideals, ideologies, ethics, morals and values due to dynamic changes in people’s aspirations and preferences.
Talk to a political leader in private about coercion, extortion and corruption, their reply is simple: people take money and liquor to vote; and so no alternative but to amass wealth to contest in polls by all means.
Thus, the real state or face of democracy: “Yatha Praja, Thata Raja” in democracy. View media coverage as “free entertainment” – a reality show with full flow of people’s participation. Do not raise either blood pressure or sugar levels as helpless spectators or bystanders.
Try to awaken people to identify ‘pretenders’ feigning as leaders in your own ways.
In sum, how appropriate is the expanded proverb/phrase “All’s fair in love, war and politics.”