AA Edit | ECI has acted, but isn’t it too little too late?

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

EC has directed BJP and Congress to avoid campaigning on caste, community, language, and religion, urging for respectful electoral conduct

The EC’s directives indeed reflect universal condemnation of the ways in which campaigning has been undertaken by the main players in the election game. (Representative Image: DC)

The directive of the Election Commission of India to the BJP and the Congress to desist from campaigning along caste, community, language and religious lines during the ongoing Lok Sabha election reflects a delayed but welcome response on the part of the poll body. This, coupled with its censure of Abhijit Gangopadhyay, the BJP candidate for Tamluk Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal, for his “low-level personal attack” on chief minister Mamata Banerjee, comes as a strong reminder to political parties and candidates that they must behave.In its missive to the two key players, the BJP and the Congress, the EC has rightly pointed out that India’s socio-cultural milieu cannot be made a casualty to elections. In its directive that has come almost a month after complaints were registered with it, the EC rightly rejected BJP president J.P. Nadda’s excuses and directed him and his party's star campaigners, who include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to cease campaigning on religious and communal lines. The BKP must stop campaign speeches that may divide society, the poll body has demanded.

In a show of even-handedness, the EC also directed the Congress not to politicise the defence forces and make potentially divisive statements regarding the socio-economic demographics of the armed forces.

In its censure note to the utterances of Gangopadhyay who was until recently a judge of the Calcutta high court, the EC mentioned how they “brought disrepute and damage to the state of West Bengal which has a distinguished tradition of respect for women” and that his comments are condemnable given the fact he was a holder of a constitutional position.

The EC’s directives indeed reflect universal condemnation of the ways in which campaigning has been undertaken by the main players in the election game. However, it must be said that they have come in very late in the day. Hasn’t the EC been too slow to stand up to the powerful who have lowered the electoral discourse and vitiated the atmosphere of the 18th Lok Sabha election? The fact that it took such a long time to restrain the Prime Minister from making his usual hateful and divisive speeches has emboldened him to take the campaign further down that dangerous lane. The latest example being his taunt that the stolen keys of the Ratna Bhandar of the Puri temple may have gone to Tamil Nadu.

It may be remembered that Mr Modi told his audience in Uttar Pradesh that INDIA bloc leaders in the South speak ill of the people of UP. The Representation of the People Act and the Indian Penal Code specifically prohibit such utterances, but no institution thought it fit to remind the Prime Minister until now. This despite the fact that there is a Supreme Court directive to all state police chiefs to suo motu register cases against people who indulge in hate speech.
Notably, however, the regulators can only do so much in a democracy. It is incumbent upon those in public life to present themselves in such a manner that the citizens continue to trust the institutions that they represent.