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Morality becomes poll victim

Morality becomes poll victim
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Morality Becomes Poll Victim. As India goes to polls in five States, the lines between a political opponent and sworn enemy have got blurred....

When a Congress Minister dubbed the Saffron’s Prime Ministerial candidate “a khooni insaan,” retaliated Modi, “Hamain Chhattisgarh ko khooni panje se bachana hai”, referring to the Congress’s hand symbol.

As India goes to polls in five States, the lines between a political opponent and sworn enemy have got blurred. Epitomized by the oodles of vicious tu-tu-mein-mein, cheap thrills and seetees which has trashed basic courtesies, decencies and respect among healthy rivals. Everyone and everything is game. In the hope this would bring them political tripti!

Welcome Election 2012 wherein immorality is the flavour of the season. From desh bhakts to desh drohis. The ball was set rolling by the Congress who called Modi a dictator like Hitler. Citing a Nazi propaganda film wherein Hitler's henchman Rudolf Hess had proclaimed that ‘Germany was Hitler and Hitler was Germany’, shot back Modi, “This is an eerie echo to what Congress president Barooah said in 1975 ‘India is Indira, Indira is India.’ So which Party has dictatorial, Nazi tendencies?" he asked.

The war of words between the two national parties hit a new low when a Congress Minister dubbed the Saffron’s Prime Ministerial candidate “a khooni insaan.” Retaliated Modi, “Humain Chhattisgarh ko khooni panje se bachana hai”, referring to the Congress’s hand symbol. Again as a Congressman mocked that a tea seller cannot become India's Prime Minister.”

The BJP hit back, “A tea vendor is better than those who sell the country” (Sic). Taking the bull by the horns, Modi taunted “Madam Sonia Gandhi has called me bicchoo (scorpion), maut ka saudagar, Madam, you are ill. Let the shehzada take over,” poking fun at Rahul’s habit of rolling up his sleeves. A livid Congress struck back, “Modi has no limits of decency.” Added another senior leader for good measure, “Modi is a terrorist.”

Alas, in this see-saw battle between the BJP and the Congress is a sad reflection on the depth of political depravation we have come to. What is most worrying is that the campaign of slander in the Sonia-Rahul-Modi battle transgresses all limits of political and public decency and etiquette.

The issue is not whether the BJP is able to beat the Congress at the numbers game. Nor that both have sacrificed morality at the altar of power. The issue is also not that the Election Commission has taken both Modi and Rahul to task for their intemperate outbursts. The former for khooni panja, the latter for accused the BJP of spearheading the recent Muzaffarnagar communal riots resulting in Muslim youth being approached by Pakistan’s ISI. Sadly, in a milieu where politics has degenerated to a euphemism for abuse and maliciousness, none seems to care a damn for morality nor has the patience to bother about the poll Bible – the model code of conduct which comprises Dos and Don’ts about general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booth observers and the party in power.

After all, how would their art of double-speak succeed if the preachers of morality were to start practicing it? Forget the Commission reading the riot act under the model code of conduct, except for scoring brownie points against each other. Ends matter not the means.

For instance the Code underscores, “criticism of other Parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work…Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.” So what?

Moreover, while the Congress has once more fallen back on it’s tried and tested formula --- putting its secularism against the communal forces. Modi ridicules, “the secularism syndicate is suffering from the dengue of depression.” Asserted an official: “The Model Code of Conduct lacks legal sanction. It is intended to work as a moral policeman to ensure free and fair elections. We can only freeze a party’s election symbol or derecognize it as a national party.” Bluntly, netas can merrily violate the code brazenly and yet get elected to the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

Yet, within their limited mandate, successive Commissions have done a lot to detoxify the electoral system whereby the moral Code is central to the EC's efforts to prevent misuse of official machinery by Parties and to check electoral offences, malpractices and corruption during elections.

Importantly, India is today at the moral crossroads. The EC must be given more teeth. Even the power to countermand an election in case a candidate violates the Code. Our leaders and parties too must get rid of their excess baggage of communalism and casteism made a lot more malignant by our unstable and fragmented politics. The people must not allow themselves to be fooled or taken for granted by our rhinoceros-skinned netagan.

Our leaders should remember one age-old truth: “If you point one slanderous finger at another, four other slanderous fingers will point back at you!” The time is ripe for our polity to pause and ask: Are they putting a premium on slander? On immorality. Will licentiousness be the bedrock of India’s democracy?

How long should the aam aadmi suffer their stampede for sensation and slander? Can a nation be bare and bereft of all sense of shame and morality? And, for how long? The answer lies in two simple words: probity and morality. Can this be assured? Or, is that asking for too much?

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