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ET EDIT-The EC: Not So Toothless, After All Action against leaders’ misconduct welcome

April 16, 2019 06:54 AM


The EC: Not So Toothless, After All
Action against leaders’ misconduct welcome
The Election Commission’s (EC) decision to bar Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BJP leader Yogi Adityanath and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati from campaigning for 72 hours and 48 hours, respectively, is welcome. Adityanath’s conduct was clearly more egregious than that of the BSP leader and his heavier penalty is appropriate. In censuring these leaders for their polarising rhetoric and limiting their public interactions, the commission sent out a clear message about what is not acceptable. But the commission needs to do much more.

Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Azam Khan plumbed new depths with his attack on BJP candidate Jaya Prada. There can be no excuse for the misogyny of Khan’s comments. To take a tough stand on sexism and misogyny is low hanging fruit. No party can defend comments that demean and intimidate women, limiting their participation in politics. Taking decisive action against Khan would incentivise candidates and political leaders to take a long and hard look at their public utterances. Then there are cases like that of Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi, who suggested that she is not obliged to work for those who fail to vote for her in the elections. This flies in the face of a basic tenet of representative democracy. A member of Parliament is not just the representative of those who voted for them but of all members of the constituency. The commission and Mrs Gandhi’s party leadership should find a way to convey this message.

Keeping a close eye on every public utterance is difficult for the commission given that the number of candidates is in the order of thousands and spread across the country. In the age of social media and the ubiquitous mobile phone, politicians do not have the luxury of denying something atrocious they have said: a videographed record would circulate soon enough. It makes sense for the commission to pick up the cases of clear violation and issue demonstrable and exemplary punishment. It would send out the message that words do matter and have consequences

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