Regardless of the manner in which the apex court deals with Rahul Gandhi’s expression of regret ~ his acolytes insist it was no apology ~ history will record that the 2019 election campaign projected Indian politics at its vicious worst.

To write off or accept it as heat-of-the-moment rhetoric would be to demean debate and discussion, two critical elements of the parliamentary democracy in which this nation once took tremendous pride.

It is doubtful it the political conversation will ever regain the decency of Nehru, Vajpayee, Hiren Mukherjee, or even the cutting humour of Piloo Mody. Sansad Sadan in poorer at the demise of that brand of grace from our political life.

It is not just a question of changing times and the discarding of the alien Westminster model ~ our indigenous ‘panchayat’ system has been similarly abandoned by the new breed of politicians who thrive on hatred and loose tongues.

The Election Commission has thrown in the towel: when politicians deliberately opt for competitive outrageousness, no Model Code of Conduct will suffice to foster dignity. Just as the Rules of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha fail to sustain what was once hailed as “parliamentary” ~ when the pathway to the apex legislature is so filth-littered – to expect dignity to be displayed in the hallowed chambers would be futile.

After being goaded by the Supreme Court into flexing its muscle the EC has chosen to impose short-term bans on campaigning by a handful of “offenders” ~ does that have punitive or remedial effect? When party leaders queue up to “justify” the sick comments on a man who died fighting terrorism on the streets of Mumbai, the self-withdrawal of Sadhvi Pragya’s invective-laced utterances assume dangerous dimensions.

More so since her party leadership proudly declares that she was specially selected to debunk the “Hindu terror” theory ~ even before judicial sanction for that has been attained. If Nirmala Sithamaman is correct when stating that Rahul’s credibility has been shot to pieces by his expression of regret, surely the same yardstick applies to Pragya’s withdrawing her charges gaingst Hemant Karkare ~ at least Rahul never cursed a Rafale pilot.

Perhaps the defence minister would opt to ignore the “protest” from several Directors- General of Police in the same way that she wished away an essay by 150 military veterans lamenting the politicisation of the armed forces. She has forfeited her right to hold that high office. Even Krishna Menon stepped side when he lost the military’s confidence.

It could well be argued that the tone for the lowly political debate was set by the head of the government. Alas, even the head of state has backed off from applying any corrective. So to expect either the Election Commission or the Supreme Court to attempt to cleanse the political system would be as loose-tongued a hope as wishing for a snowstorm in a north Indian summer.