Rahul Gandhi said that INDIA bloc will defeat the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and form government at the Centre.
The just-ended campaign for the Karnataka assembly elections has made it clear that India’s political class has learnt little, if anything, from the predicament that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi finds himself in, having been divested of his parliamentary seat by a conviction for ill-advised remarks that a court found judicially unacceptable. Whether the conviction, or the sentence, was fair is for a higher forum to consider, but there can be no question about the fact that the remarks were in shockingly poor taste.
But they were by no means less acceptable than some of the utterances of our political class ~ on either side of the divide, we must emphasise ~ during the Karnataka campaign. The content of poll rhetoric was sometimes so toxic that the Election Commission of India was prompted last week to caution all parties in the fray to mind their tongues.
In an official statement, the poll body said: “It is imperative for all parties and stakeholders to remain within the confines of the Model Code of Conduct and the legal framework in their utterances while campaigning so as to maintain the dignity of the political discourse.”
This statement was prompted by utterances of rival party leaders that variously termed the Prime Minister as a poisonous snake and worthless, and the leader of the main Opposition party as a snake maiden. While these essays in ophiology had little to do with the issues in the election, they dominated headlines.
For the record, such utterances violate the first injunction of the Code of Conduct which asks parties and candidates not to indulge in activities that create mutual hatred. The next sentence of the Code says: “Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programmes, past record and work.” It stands to reason that campaigners who did not bother to read the first two sentences of the Code would not have read any part of the rest, and were thus active participants in an egregious defiling of democratic norms. While conceding that the Karnataka elections are crucial for the fortunes of the country’s two main parties ~ one wishing to retain its presence in south India and the other seeking to overturn a string of electoral reverses ~ the tenor of the campaign suggests that worse, much worse may be in store for the electorate in the months ahead as the national government enters the final year of its term.
It is time therefore to reflect on the Code of Conduct, and how it came into being through a consultative exercise that involved major political parties, and the role that the Election Commission must play to ensure that flagrant violations do not go unpunished.
The poll process in Karnataka has not yet ended, and there is time yet for the Election Commission to crack down on all those who vitiated the poll atmosphere. Failure to do so now will guarantee that the level of discourse in the year ahead remains at the subterranean level achieved in Karnataka.