Despite a spirited intervention by the Election Commission – when it recently banned election speeches in UP by Narendra Modi aide Amit Shah and SP strongman Azam Khan for divisive statements – hateful, intimidating and threatening poll rhetoric is showing no signs of ebbing.
BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addresses a public rally in Lakhimpur. (Shadab Raza/ HT photo)
Only on Friday, Giriraj Singh, a BJP leader from Bihar told an election rally in Jharkhand: "Those who want to stop Narendra Modi from becoming prime minister will have no place in India in the coming days. They will only have place in Pakistan."
Giriraj made the remarks in presence of former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, who himself stirred a row by telling reporters in Patna that casteism was embedded in Bihar's DNA. Later, he said he meant Bihar's politics, not Bihar.
Gadkari also accused Congress, RJD and his party's former ally of 17 years JD (U) of being "multi-communal" and practicing "terrorism in the garb of secularism".
By "multi-communal", he said he meant "reinforcing a 100% communal mindset with an additional dose of extreme communalism".
Read: Gadkari starts row with 'casteism in Bihar DNA' remark, claims NDA will get more than 272 seats
On Thursday, Aam Aadmi Party released a video purportedly showing Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar warning people in a village, during an election rally, that "if anybody indulges in any trouble, I will cut off the water supply".
By "trouble", he is alleged to have meant not voting for Supriya Sule, Nationalist Congress Party nominee and daughter of Sharad Pawar.
The poll discourse touched depths when Shah had told a gathering in communal-violence hit Muzaffarnagar that they should take revenge for the last year's religious riots, while Khan had said the soldiers who died liberating Kargil were Muslims.
The EC later revoked the bans on their activities, but many believe the damage had been done, as their speeches sharply polarised the voters in western UP, possibly their motive behind the controversial statements.
After his "boys-make-mistake-why-hang-them" remarks on death sentence for rapists, Samajwadi Party supremo created another controversy by warning contractual government teachers in Uttar Pradesh that they will lose their jobs if they don't vote for his party.
Asked by the EC on Friday to explain his remarks, the SP said the statement was "made in jest". Another SP leader, Abu Azmi, created outrage, saying "women who have sex outside marriage should be hanged".
Personal attacks have been a hallmark of poll rhetoric. In one such exchange, Modi called P Chidambaram as a "recount minister", referring to his election after a recount of votes in the 2009 polls. The finance minister countered by calling Modi "an encounter minister", alluding to killing of several people in staged gunfights in Gujarat.
The poll watchdog has admitted that public discourse has deteriorated this election, with leaders spreading hatred, using threats and referring to their opponents in derogatory terms to garner votes.
But the commission has been criticised for not effectively using the Model Code of Conduct, which empowers it to take action. Election officials, however, find the code, last revised in 1997, as inadequate.
A few former chief election commissioners, such as C Gopalaswami, feel the commission can keep a tab on politicians by timely and quick intervention.
"The commission has immense powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to take action," he said.
The commission has also drawn flak for being slow in initiating action against erring leaders. For example, it acted against Khan and Shah after the polling in riot hit Muzaffarnagar was over.
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