Helpless poll body

Both the Election Commission and very recently the Supreme Court, too, have forbidden political parties and leaders to make ‘inflammatory’ statements aimed at influencing voters by appealing to religion, caste, creed, community and language. The directives of these two bodies have been honoured more in their breaches than in their observance. Particularly, the ongoing election propaganda in Uttar Pradesh has seen the most shameless attempts at whipping up passion by deviously making use of religion, caste and community. When the Prime Minister says if there should be electricity during Ramzan then there should be electricity during Diwali, too, it means more than what he says.
On the face of it, there is nothing in it to take umbrage at. This is a secular country and there should, indeed, be no discrimination between one religious function and another. But there is a not-too-hidden message implicit in this apparently innocuous statement. The implication is that the present government in Uttar Pradesh is meting out discriminatory treatment to different communities on the ground of religion. The Election Commission, therefore, found it necessary to caution the parties to avoid making statements that are “against not only the words but also the spirit of the law and the Model code of Conduct.” Indeed, the spirit can often be violated by clever use of words.
But when people like a prime minister or a chief minister or other ministers and heads of political parties try to influence public opinion by making subtle appeals to their religion or caste or language, it becomes difficult even for an august body like the Election Commission to pull up those indulging in such propaganda, far less restraining them. Ajmal Kasab was the Pak terrorist who was caught alive and hanged for the serial terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. Now, when the president of the ruling party says, in course of electioneering in UP, that K of Kasab stands for Congress, S stands for Samajwadi (Party) and B for Bahujan Samaj Party, is he not, in effect, calling these parties terrorist, pro-Pak and anti-national? Even as rhetoric or a hyperbole, such statements are impermissible and offensive. But such statements are being made day in and day out, with perfect impunity. The Election Commission is apparently wringing its hands and watching the venom-spouting helplessly, without being able either to stop it or to bring the offenders to book. The venom is entering the body politic and it’s after effects will continue long after the elections are over.

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017