ET View: EC must cancel candidatures of toxic-mouths, and not make verbal attacks, threats, insults the new normal
Sexism and misogyny may have many takers among voters, but it's something that the Election Commission needs to put a lid on and not let slide as 'unfortunate cultural realities'.
Sexism and misogyny may have many takers among voters, but it's something that the Election Commission needs to put a lid on and not let slide as 'unfortunate cultural realities'. As is the case with communalism – or, more precisely, negative, exclusionary communitarianism – as displayed by another veteran politician, BJP Union minister and Pilibhit MP Maneka Gandhi. In a campaign rally in Sultanpur from where she is contesting, she categorised villages according to 'ABCD' – those villages voting BJP 80% under category A, those voting BJP 60% category B and so on…
She went on to pretty much deliver an 'either-or' threat to the Muslims of Sultanpur – depending on which translation from Hindi you choose: 'If Muslims won't vote for me and then come to ask for work, I will have to think, what's the use of giving them jobs.' or 'Later when a Muslim comes over for some work, I feel let it be, how does it matter? My job is give and take, isn't it?'
Khan and Gandhi are hardly the only politicians who have been spewing toxins as the swirl of the Lok Sabha elections get rougher and uglier. Trinamool Congress' candidate from Asansol Moon Moon Sen last month described Biharis in West Bengal making 'good police informers'. BJP UP chief minister Adityanath has pitched this election as a battle between 'Ali and Bajrang Bali'. The list goes on.
Party chiefs and seniors, may or may not provide lip service about taking action against such blatant transgressions. But surely, the Election Commission can set up disincentives by removing the candidacies of those freely violating not only the model code of conduct but also providing grist to the 'dirty politics' mill with boorish, sexist and communitarian verbal attacks.
Even if the EC maintains that it doesn't have powers other than sending advisories and filing complaints on repeat offenders -- and the apex court has asked for an explanation on the extent of the poll body's writ -- proactive action (noises, included) would serve better than only limiting matters to jurisdictional reach. The EC has to show it's not tolerant of 'mala fide' electoral campaigning.
If it doesn't, then such behaviour and poll practice will be truly normalised. That is, if it hasn't been already.