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Democracy will be weakened if election commission fails to take any action against Modi


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PM’s vicious speech against Muslims­ in poll campaign violates constitution

By P. Sudhir

The prime minister’s vitriolic speech of April 21, delivered two days after the first phase of polling of the Lok Sabha elections, has been widely condemned both in India and abroad. The language and bigotry which he displayed to incite hatred against the Muslim community and the political parties whom he accused of favouring them were reminiscent of the rhetoric he employed in his speeches immediately after the Gujarat pogrom against Muslims that happened in 2002when he was the chief minister. It is important to analyse why he has felt the need to revert to them once again so early in this election campaign.
102 seats went to the polls on April 19. Of these, 40 belong to Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry and the BJP will almost certainly draw a blank here. The rest of the seats are – 12 in Rajasthan, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 6 in Madhya Pradesh, 5 each in Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Assam, 4 in Bihar, 3 in West Bengal, 6 in North East, 1 in Chhattisgarh and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir. In the last election, the BJP swept to victory in the states to which they belong. There are indications, however, that the BJP’s performance this time in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Bihar was below par and, if this trend continues, BJP dreams of a third term with an overwhelming majority, will remain just that – dreams.
It is this disconcerting confrontation with popular discontent that seems to have goaded the prime minister into falling back on well-tested dog whistles against Muslims and those that he accuses of favouring them with an increased quotient of hate. In his speech in Banswara, Rajasthan, a state that gave the BJP a convincing victory in the assembly polls a few months ago but which seems to have cut them down to size in the April 19 round, he made the malicious allegation that the Congress was committed to giving a first share of national resources to Muslims whom he called ‘infiltrators’ and ‘those who have more children’.
Quite untruthfully, he said that this had been promised by former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He then went on to predict that if the Congress were voted to power, it would collect gold from the mangalsutras of Hindu women and give much of it to Muslims. Of course, this was designed to evoke an angry, emotional response especially from Hindu women. In another speech, again in Rajasthan, he falsely accused the Congress of wanting to give benefits of reservation to Muslims at the expense of dalits and tribals. This, of course, was to ensure divisions between sections of the exploited poor who were opposed to his policies.
Since the Hindi heartland states are crucial for a return of power by the BJP, more of the same can be expected in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister has also given a taste of what to expect with his speech accusing the Congress of wanting to implement Shariat law in India.
The prime minister’s speeches have evoked enthusiastic support among the core voters of the BJP who feel that a return to their core issue of communal polarisation is essential not only to garner support for their electoral campaign but also to overcome popular discontent over their failed policies. It has also found traction with some Indian members of the corporate sector at home and abroad who welcome this clear enunciation by the BJP of its complete rejection of policies of redistribution of wealth and increased taxation of the rich to reduce inequality and poverty.
The CPI(M) and other opposition parties and concerned citizens have complained to the Election Commission of India about the prime minister’s speeches which are violative of the Constitution, of laws against the promotion of enmity and hatred between groups of Indian citizens and of the model code of conduct currently in force. The EC’s initial response was ‘No comment’ followed by a statement that it was ‘studying’ the complaints. Millions are watching the EC intently to see whether it will live up to its constitutional responsibilities. Indian democracy will be further weakened if it fails to do so. This is test case to see how far the Election Commission has been ‘tamed’.
Will Modi’s hate speeches bolster the falling fortunes of his party? Many election surveys have shown that Indian voters are extremely concerned about unemployment, poverty and corruption. If this is indeed so, his efforts will prove to be futile but condemnable nonetheless. (IPA Service)


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