Matter of disgrace

The model code of conduct which should be respected and followed by all candidates, parties and campaigners in the run-up to elections cannot bite. But it is incumbent on all to uphold it in letter and spirit in the interest of free and fair elections.  It is wrong to violate it with words or actions, and worse to persist with the violation after it has been taken note of. It is still worse to strike a posture of defiance of the Election Commission (EC) after it has told the errant person to refrain from further violations. Union minister for law and minority affairs Salman Khurshid is guilty of all these improprieties, and the responsible position that he holds in government makes his conduct  totally indefensible.

The Chief Election Commissioner has, after a full meeting of the commission, taken the unprecedented step of bringing the matter to the notice of the President, seeking action against the minister. During his campaign in Uttar Pradesh Khurshid has been promising nine per cent quota for minorities in order to woo the Muslim vote for the Congress party and for his wife who is a candidate in the elections. In spite of censure from the commission he did not back down and even challenged the commission with a public statement that he would continue with his promise even if the EC hanged him for that.

The defence that  Khurshid’s statements are personal and do not reflect the positions of the Congress party and the government is disingenuous. He is a senior minister and his words and actions cannot be separated from his position and office, and they have certainly vitiated the idea of free and fair elections not only in his wife’s constituency but in the entire state. The argument that he was only repeating a promise in the Congress manifesto is also wrong because the manifesto does not make such a promise.

Khurshid, being law minister, should know the implications of his posture and so his defiance of the election commission can only be deliberate. The government and the Congress party need to heed the call of the commission for immediate and decisive intervention to ensure that it is in a position to discharge its constitutionally mandated responsibilities. The least that the Congress should do to show respect to the EC is to debar Khurshid from campaigning in UP any further and send out the message that it does not condone such abhorrent conduct.

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