02 November 2013
Our netas seem to display a lack of knowledge of our own history. It is time they did their homework diligently
If some of our political leaders were to be contestants on a history segment of a Kaun Banega Crorepati-type quiz, chances are they would go home empty-handed. Politicians are known to subtely twist historical facts to suit themselves. But, in today’s world, with its easy access to information, such sins of omission or commission are all too easily caught out. And with 24 hour television, the common refrain of being misquoted is also one of diminishing returns. While some of these gaffes are controversial and insensitive, like Congress leader Beni Prasad Verma saying that “I am happy with this inflation’, many are comical and some are just plain fudget facts. Comments that twist historical facts expose the poor grasp our leaders have over our own past.
On Tuesday, at the inauguration of the renovated Sardar Vallabhbhai patel memorial Museum in Ahmedabad, Gujarat chief minister and prime ministerial aspirant narendra Modi reportedly said that Jawaharlal Nehru did not attend Patel’s funeral. Which is not the case. Other instances where Modi has got his facts wrong are in saying that Chandragupta Maurya belonged to the Gupta dynasty, that Chine spends 20% of its GDP on education (Beijing devotes hardly 4%) and that Gujarat empowered women (the sex ratio has fallen in the past decade). Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also seemingly got it wrong when he referred to the ‘large 70-foot ashes with dead bodies’ in Uttar Pradesh in the heat of the state election campaign earlier. It is not just our netas who are prone to gaffes. Topping the global list would be former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s remark that ‘You can see Russia from land here in Alaska’. Former US president George W Bush’s ‘Bushisms’ like “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully” have found a lasting place in public memory.
It is an affront to the intelligence of our people that leaders don’t bother to do their homework. They need to be careful about their words, and most certainly about their facts. Those who don’t know our history, can hardly be trusted to chart out our future. Perhaps, all parties need to conduct crash courses in historical information so that when our worthies get up and speak in public, they are on firm ground.