Lok Sabha elections are approaching, and both the national parties, the BJP and the Congress, are busy attacking each other furiously.
The interesting thing is that both appear to be right in their accusations.
On Friday last, at a function to launch Kapil Sibal's book 'Shades of Truth', the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the state of the Indian economy is a powerful indictment of the government's poor performance, hinting at the rise in petrol and diesel prices and the fall of the rupee. He expressed concern over rising unemployment and was critical of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. He said the government had done nothing to bring back billions of dollars from abroad which Narendra Modi had promised to do in his election campaign, and the Make in India and Start Up India schemes had yet to make any impact. He spoke against the government's undermining of democratic and secular values, and said that minorities, women and Dalits were feeling insecure. He also said that relations with our neighbours had become strained since 2014 and the region was unsafe.
All true, no doubt.
But when Prime Minister Modi spoke in February 2018, in response to the motion of thanks to the President's address in Parliament, he also spoke the truth.
He said that India was paying for the sins of the Congress, attacking it for large-scale corruption and dynastic rule. He spoke of the atrocities during the Emergency, Bofors and the Agusta Westland chopper scam. He said that Congress was the party which had agreed to the Partition of India, and was responsible for the Kashmir imbroglio.
Responding to him, Rahul Gandhi said that the Prime Minister had promised two crore jobs, remunerative prices to farmers and loan waivers, promises which had not been kept.
Rahul was also correct.
In the No Confidence Motion proceedings in the Lok Sabha in July, Rahul Gandhi spoke of the 'jumla' strikes by the BJP. He asked, where were the 15 lakh rupees promised in the bank account of every Indian, and the two crore jobs per year promised to the youth? He said that unemployment in India was the highest in 60 years. The PM apparently worked for 10-20 businessmen only, and had no time for the weak.
The assets of the son of the Prime Minister's friend (implying Amit Shah) had reportedly increased 1600 times, and the price of the Rafale aircraft was being kept secret, and reportedly had been increased after the Prime Minister's visit to France. Lynchings of Muslims and Dalits were regularly happening, and a Union Minister had garlanded the alleged lynchers. Rs 2.5 lakh crores worth of loans to industrialists had been declared NPAs, but farmers' loans were not waived, nor were they given remunerative prices, leading to many suicides.
Again, largely true.
Both the BJP and the Congress accuse each other of large-scale corruption - and probably, both are right. If Vijay Mallya looted huge amounts during UPA rule, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have done it and left during NDA rule. So, it is the pot calling the kettle black.
In the recent National Executive meeting of the BJP, PM Modi said that the UPA govt led by the Congress was a failure, and he was right.
But when Congress leaders say that the present NDA govt led by the BJP is also a failure, pointing at growing unemployment, farmers' distress and suicides, rising petrol prices and sinking rupee, they are also right. In fact, the Congress has called for a Bharat Bandh on Monday over the rise in petrol prices. Many opposition parties, like the Left, the SP, RJD, NCP and DMK, have supported it.
Meanwhile, the Congress calls the BJP communal, and the BJP returns the compliment, referring to Rahul Gandhi's alleged remark that the Congress was a Muslim party. Both attack each other over the issue of the National Register of Citizens (BRC) in Assam. The Congress denounces the BJP for massacring Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 for political benefit, and the BJP does the same to Congress for the massacre of Sikhs in 1984.
And both may be right.
During the Emergency of 1975-77, the Congress suppressed all civil liberties and freedom of the press. But the recent arrests of five activists in connection with the Bhima Koregaon incident, and the reported pressures on the media as revealed in the resignations of senior ABP journalists disclose the same attitude on the part of the BJP.
So, who should the voter vote for?
It is a Hobson's choice, between Scylla and Charybdis. One's mind boggles over this predicament.