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Another rule for BJP

Another rule for BJP

Author: Balbir K. Punj
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: April 14, 2007

Whichever way the Election Commission (EC) decides on the Congress and Marxist combine's plea to derecognise the BJP, the sordid episode has surely revealed the chinks in the secularists' armour. By making this demand on the EC, the "secularists" have conceded that they are unable to fight the BJP on the basis of ideology and that their faith in democracy continues to be skin-deep.

The Marxists' mellifluous noises about democracy are part of a sinister plan. It is a settled fact that the Communists often use a democratic set-up to infiltrate and wreck the system from within. And the Congress' credentials about democracy have become suspect ever since Emergency, the darkest period of Indian democracy after independence. In fact, both these political formulations (Congress and Marxists) are a misfit in a democratic polity.

After its comprehensive defeat in Punjab, Uttarakhand and Delhi, the rogue CD has come as a godsend for the Congress. Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent, may draw crowds in Uttar Pradesh because of the novelty value, but it is obvious that his antics will not be able to resurrect the near-dead Congress in the state. No wonder that the Congress is seeking to use the EC to eliminate the BJP from the electoral arena.

The Election Commission of India was understandably upset over an impugned CD that got mixed with the campaign material that the BJP in UP distributed on April 4. Naturally, it acted to seek an explanation from the party. The party, however, had on the same day the rogue CD was found to have been slipped into its campaign material, disassociated itself from it and withdrew it totally. It was only two days later that the EC got into the act and asked for an explanation from the BJP. All that the BJP had to do was to point out to the EC that it had not authorised the CD, that it did not bear its imprimatur and symbol and that a major party official had been suspended for his neglect in allowing such unauthorised material to get into the party's campaign kit.

That the BJP itself disassociated itself from the rogue CD the moment it came to its notice and that this categorical disassociation was disclosed both at the party central office and at the state office, should have been enough to end the story. But strangely, even before the party office bearers themselves got a chance to look at the rogue CD, the EC ordered an FIR to be filed against the party's national president, which was done with electric speed by the Samajwadi Party government. There is little doubt that the EC acted under pressure from the Congress-Marxist combine.

How can the party's national president be held responsible if he was neither present at the function where this material was distributed nor was in any way connected with it? It is significant that the two FIRS were filed even after the entire party at various levels, from top to bottom, had totally disassociated itself from the CD.

Some precedents and recent events are instructive in this context. Subsequent to Mrs Indira Gandhi's assassination, the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi carried out a vicious anti-Sikh election campaign in 1984. The Congress under him issued an election manifesto (not just election propaganda material) promising to implement a Bible Raj. The EC chose to close its eyes to this blatant attempt to appeal for vote in the name of religion.

In the last Assembly elections in Bihar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, the railway minister was caught in the act of publicly distributing money to voters while the election code was in force. He was not proceeded against. In that same election, another Central Cabinet minister who is also the president of his party was carrying on a campaign by saying that he would like to install a Muslim as the chief minister of Bihar. In the previous election, the same minister was being accompanied by a look-alike of Osama bin Laden, the world's number one terrorist. The look-alike was intended to emphasise this Cabinet minister's empathy towards Osama bin Laden and the Muslim cause.

All the while the government of which he was a part, was telling the world to do the maximum to destroy terrorism! Strangely, the EC never bothered to consider such an open appeal in the name of a community as against the election code or in any manner question such conduct. Nor did our self-styled secularists protest such open endorsement of a global terrorist leader by a Cabinet minister. The Prime Minister who cries at every world forum about the dangers of terrorism, chose to turn a blind eye to this public praise of a terrorist leader, and did not oppose the appeal for votes in the name of a community.

The EC has not done anything to stop the consistent attempts that have been made to play the communal card prior to the elections in UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand. At a government sponsored conference, in a written speech, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that Muslims have the first claim on development. Though his spokesmen later tried to twist his statement to include in it Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes etc., it was obvious that his statement was communal in its appeal.

A minister of the Mulayam Singh government made a public appeal to his community to murder a cartoonist in Denmark for an offensive caricature of the Prophet of Islam. The minister publicly promised to pay the would-be murderer a sum of Rs 52 crores for carrying out this act. No FIR was filed against the minister, when the law is clear that any act of incitement to murder is a criminal offence and is cognisable. The BSP chief quotes the number of "Brahmins" her party is sponsoring. Is it not a caste-based appeal, which goes against the election code?

In Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, state governments have sponsored hartals against the Supreme Court judgment on the quota case. Many ruling party functionaries in each case have criticised the Supreme Court. In the process they have openly talked about the judges' castes and called for a new Constitution or the introduction of caste-based appointments to the higher judiciary. No case of criminal offence has been made against these worthies for speaking from an official podium against the higher judiciary and that too on caste lines.

The Left party leaders and the SP chief have been demanding for the last few months that the government of India fashion its foreign policy taking the Muslim sentiment into consideration. This campaign is carried out publicly. Giving a community the veto power on foreign policy (or even domestic policy) is dangerous. But there is no countervailing action from the governments at the Centre and the states against this demand.

In the last Assembly election in Kerala, the Left and a known Muslim extremist party, NDP, openly invoked Muslim communal sentiments. The Left manifesto specifically demanded that foreign policy decisions be taken to please the Muslim community. This manifesto and subsequent election speeches of the Left and NDP leaders were full of criticism of the Central government's foreign policy on the ground that the policy was against Muslims. The EC did not bother to act against this open attempt to appeal to Muslim communalism.

In the UP election itself, there are some fronts that are openly identifying themselves with Muslim communalism and spewing venom against the majority community day in and day out. In this context, the uproar by the so-called secular parties and the admonitory notice given by the EC to the BJP president on an issue he cannot be linked with - an issue from which the party has distanced itself - are misplaced. Can there be two rulebooks for two teams in one game?

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