New Delhi: As the great Indian election rolls past the midway mark, the role of the Election Commission of India (ECI) has come under the scanner from its failure to check repeated violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and ensure a level playing field for all political parties.
The number of times the MCC has been breached, particularly with political hate speech, is unprecedented this time. So much so that the poll body was reprimanded by the apex Supreme Court (SC) last week for acting “powerless and toothless” against hate speeches during election rallies.
If the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have faith in ‘Ali’, we have faith in ‘Bajrang Bali’ (Hindu deity), the followers of Bajrang Bali will not tolerate them.
Many feel that the general assertion that the poll body is toothless has no factual basis. All that is needed is strict enforcement of the MCC.
In fact, after the top court pulled up the EC for its inaction against controversial statements, the EC told the court: “We found we have powers!”
You (Muslims) are in a 64 per cent majority here. I have come to warn you that BJP is trying to divide you. By bringing in a person like All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi here, by introducing a new party here, they want to win the polls. If you get united and vote together, Narendra Modi will be defeated. You will hit a six. Hit such a sixer that Modi lands outside the boundary.
The poll body is now beginning to assert itself in accordance with the Constitutional mandate that makes it the most powerful electoral body in the world.
If the EC really decides on it, it has adequate powers to curb electoral irregularities as demonstrated by previous Chief Election Commissioners (CEC) TN Seshan and JM Lyngdoh.
Credited with effectively implementing MCC, reining in money power in elections and filing cases and arresting political candidates for not abiding by electoral rules, Seshan wielded a big stick.
Don't waste your votes on Congress. You (Muslims) should not split your mandate by voting for the Congress as it would only help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Our Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) alliance had finalised a Muslim candidate much before the Congress or other parties did it in your area.
At one point, it was said that Indian politicians only feared God or Seshan. Even the apex court recently told the EC to aspire for the kind of credibility it enjoyed during the days of Seshan.
During Lyngdoh’s time, there was zero tolerance for campaign speeches stoking religion and caste-based hatred.
He showed his mettle when faced with two severe crises during his stint as CEC; one of them was the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state legislative assembly elections in 2002. In spite of cross-border terrorism and calls for a poll boycott, Lyngdoh was successful in holding the elections.
If my victory is without Muslims, I won’t feel that good. Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think, ‘let it be, how does it matter?’ It is all give and take, isn’t it? We aren’t all sons of Mahatma Gandhi, are we? It is not that we keep on giving and then losing in the election. This victory will happen with or without you.
Later, after the Godhra riots in Gujarat, the Gujarat state government called for early elections but Lyngdoh, citing disturbed circumstances, preferred delayed polls and held his ground.
Lyngdoh even likened Indian politicians to a “cancer” afflicting the body politic of the country. He said he could not think of a single living politician in the country who was committed to democracy.
Reacting to the EC suddenly realising its powers last week after the top court’s reprimand, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Parliamentarian Ramakant Yadav told Gulf News that the poll panel should not be allowed to drag its feet in matters of poll code violations.
You took 17 years to understand her reality. I could recognise it in 17 days that she (BJP leader Jaya Prada) wears a ‘khakhi’ underwear.
“No personal or communal comments should be allowed to be made during election campaigns. Besides, why do we need to have Election Commission or a Model Code of Conduct when nobody is ready to adhere to it and the poll panel simply not doing anything about it? The EC has definite powers, all it needs is to assert itself,” Yadav said.
Political commentator Vijay Chaturvedi feels if politicians are not disqualified from elections by EC for making hate speeches, then democracy is a failure in this country.
“One hate speech by a politician should be enough for his disqualification from the elections. Legally speaking, the poll result can be revoked if winning is attributable to hate speeches, threats and coercion. The candidates must not only choose words carefully but also play a safe strategy,” Chaturvedi said.
Hemant Karkare falsely implicated me. He died of his karma. I told him, he will be destroyed. I told him his entire dynasty will be erased.
After the court pulled up the poll panel, the Commission wielded its powers and enforced campaign bans as a punishment on some leaders for the offensive remarks they made in the last few days.
In a speech at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) Deoband on April seven, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati had appealed to Muslims to vote for the Samajwadi Party (SP)-BSP alliance and not divide their vote by supporting another political party.
Two days later, UP Chief Minister (CM) Yogi Adityanath told a rally in Meerut about Mayawati’s speech and said: “If the Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have faith in ‘Ali’, we have faith in ‘Bajrang Bali’ [Hindu deity], the followers of Bajrang Bali will not tolerate them.”
Later, the EC barred Adityanath from campaigning for 72 hours and Mayawati for 48 hours.
Congress people used to serve terrorists ‘biryani’, but Modiji’s Sena (Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Army) gives them only bullets and bombs.
The Commission also observed that Adityanath, as a state CM, had the added responsibility to not only uphold basic tenets including secularism but also to display the same in his public statements and meetings.
SP leader Azam Khan was also barred last week from campaigning for three days for his “indecent and derogatory” comment against BJP leader Jaya Prada.
Without taking names, Khan had said at an election rally in UP’s Rampur district that “it took you 17 years to understand her reality. I could recognise it in 17 days that she wears a ‘khakhi’ underwear.”
BJP has pitted actor-turned-politician Jaya Prada against Khan in Rampur.
The EC said Khan’s comments on his electoral rival “may be construed as being repugnant to the honour and dignity of women”.
Another senior political leader, BJP’s union minister Maneka Gandhi, was also barred from campaigning for 48 hours for communal comments.
Gandhi had asked a gathering of Muslims to vote for her, saying otherwise else she might not be inclined to be responsive to their requests.
In an audio clip of her speech, Gandhi could be heard saying, “if my victory is without Muslims, I won’t feel that good. Then when a Muslim comes to me for work, I think, ‘let it be, how does it matter?’ It is all give and take, isn’t it? We aren’t all sons of Mahatma Gandhi, are we? [laughs]. It is not that we keep on giving and then losing in the election. This victory will happen with or without you”.
Also, the Commission on Monday censured Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and barred him from campaigning for 72 hours for communal remarks made during an election rally in Bihar.
The cricketer-turned-politician had urged Muslim voters to vote en bloc and defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.