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EC must step up vigilance

comment Updated: Apr 09, 2014 23:44 IST
Hindustan Times
Election Commission

The charged atmosphere during the Lok Sabha elections this year is acquiring a communal colour in a way not seen during several polls in the past 15 years or so.

The more worrisome part is that most of this is happening in Uttar Pradesh, a state that sends the highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha and in which most prominent faces during these elections are contesting.

Sectarian utterances by public figures are marring the poll process, in which they are supposed to be the biggest stakeholders for now as well as in many elections in the future.

The revival of the Ram mandir issue, which the BJP had kept aside since 1998, and recurrent communal riots over the past eight months chime in with the prevailing mood.

First there were the condemnable remarks by Imran Masood, the Saharanpur candidate of the Congress, that he would “chop BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi into pieces” if the latter tried to convert UP into another Gujarat.

Legal action was taken against Mr Masood but he is out on bail. But enough damage was done for a replay of ‘for every action there is a reaction’ to take place, when BJP stalwart Amit Shah, who is the party's campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh, told the Jats of Muzaffarnagar it was their turn to take revenge for their insult, albeit through the ballot.

Though SP leader and UP minister Azam Khan wasn’t sowing the seeds of hatred between communities, it was entirely a lapse of judgement on his part to say the war of Kargil was won by just Muslim soldiers.

It remains to be seen whether his party censures him in the way it took action against Kamaal Farooqui, who had said Indian Mujahideen operative Yaseen Bhatkal had been arrested because he was a “Muslim”.

And Mr Modi would do well to explain why Kerala is more a nursery of terror than any other state is.

It is important to remember in this context that Mr Modi contested Rahul Gandhi when the latter said agents from Pakistan had been to Muzaffarnagar after the riots to rope in impressionable young Muslims.

Like money and liquor, innuendoes and half-truths are being served up to stir up people whereas it should be the job of all to rouse people’s consciousness.

In this the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaigns have been more sober than those of the rest in the sense that it has stuck to its anti-corruption plank.

Then again, the party has erred in excessively targeting some personalities rather than their politics.

The Election Commission, on its part, has taken the necessary steps by issuing notice to some of the actors in the game. Perhaps more firmness is needed to check wayward behaviour.