Nobody could have thought that an effective uprising against political lying would come to an edge so quickly in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement to recover black money stashed abroad and deposit “Rs 15 lakh in each bank account” was indeed an audacious political lie which time and again reverberated through his high decibel electoral campaigns. BJP president Amit Shah might brazenly dub it as an electoral “jumla” (idiom) but he seemed to have been forced to bite the bullet. This is all because shelf life of electoral lies has reduced drastically thanks to energetic masses empowered by technology. The black money episode followed by the BJP’s Delhi debacle could be a turning point for liberal lies and electoral deceit in Indian polity.
Apart from money, nothing is more integral to a political campaign than lies. Politics is perhaps the only vocation where blatant lies, shallow promises and their justification go unchecked and unpunished. “Who is more duplicitous, more inclined to deceive his own people as well as other nations for strategic advantage – current and past dictators such as Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and Saddam Hussein, or democratically elected Western leaders such as, say, Jimmy Carter, George W Bush and Barack Obama?” Washington Post raises this interesting question in a review of a unique 2011 book Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics. Written by political scientist John Mearsheimer, this unique book establishes with facts, that democratic leaders are much more deceitful and prone to make false promises than dictators. Mearsheimer’s maintains that leaders are more likely to lie to their followers than with each other because people pose faith on them but there is not much trust among opposing leaders.
America pioneers in this mission to check authenticity of political statements. Not only media houses but NGOs as well, are equipped with fact-checkers or truth-o-meters. With a little research, they embarrass their politicians if they digress from what they promised earlier. They rate political speeches under categories such as blatant lie, half-truth, truth etc. America is now debating to freeze telecast of political advertisements on the grounds that these ads are overt lies political parties serve to their own people.
We didn’t see this happening in India because all political parties are coated in similar hues. Politicians love to claim plucking stars and distributing them among public. Poll promises are wild-goose chases. Dreams of food, jobs and shelter are sold with every passing election shattered by poor governance subsequently. The inquisitive and impatient new voter is not just rejecting massive lying but also searches for conspiracy theories behind the electoral falsehood.
The beleaguered state of Greek economy is enough to explain the damage political lies can inflict on a country. Willing to win membership of European Union, politicians in Greece tampered with economic data to hide huge budget deficits which eventually brought the country to bankruptcy. People have begun to understand that political lies can jeopardize very being of countries and they are eager to scrutinise what their leaders speak to them. One need not be an investigative journalist to unravel BJP’s embarrassment on poll pledges. Few clicks on Google can shower tons of text and videos of their brash promises and voluble lies. Shah’s “jumla” excuse on black money proves that the BJP is the first party to have fallen prey to a unique uprising against political dishonesty. Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal could be the next if he fails to deliver on his promises. Indian politicians would no longer savour the freedom of liberal lies because infamously short memory of people is getting powered by collective and eternal virtual memory. They will have to mend their ways because new generation of voters just abhors the feel of being cheated by their leaders.