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HT EDIT-Lacking a sense of leadership Maneka Gandhi’s statement is out of line, must be condemned

April 15, 2019 06:03 AM


Lacking a sense of leadership
Maneka Gandhi’s statement is out of line, must be condemned
There is a certain logic to representative democracy. Candidates and political parties present their programmes and vision to their constituents; they build wide social coalitions; voters have their say and elect a representative; the leader then becomes a leader of the entire constituency, those who voted for him and those who did not, and keeps his doors open, delivers services, articulates and channels their grievances, and delivers to all without any sense of discrimination.

Maneka Gandhi, Union minister and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) candidate from the Sultanpur Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh (UP), addressed a Muslim gathering and made a set of statements which overturns this idea behind representative democracy. She indicated to the community she would win the seat, with or without their votes; if she won without their votes, she would get to know through studying the voting pattern in their booth; and if they had not voted for her, but came to her to get work done, they should not expect much for she is not large-hearted enough to do so for people who did not support her.

First, while one could treat Ms Gandhi’s claims of victory before the voting as bluster that all candidates typically engage in, she used this rhetoric of triumphalism to almost blackmail the Muslims in the gathering to vote for her. Voters are free agents and can choose who they wish to vote for, without fear. Two, the fact that this happened in a Muslim gathering is no coincidence. The BJP’s politics of exclusion has meant that Muslims do not, largely, vote for the party; in this election in UP, the community is expected to widely support the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance. Ms Gandhi’s statement is addressed to Muslims at large — and almost amounts to political intimidation. And three, Ms Gandhi, despite being an experienced Member of Parliament, lacks a sense of what leadership means. Whether a constituent voted for her or not is irrelevant to her duties as a representative of that constituency. Her statements are out of line, and deserve the widest condemnation

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