Campaign turns communal

BAR PAWAR FORTHWITH

Unfortunately, the communal undertones of the poll campaign by the major parties are singularly perverse.

The World Health Organisation’s certification of India as “polio free” last week is truly something to cheer. The country’s health workers and Rotary International that helped fund the campaign deserve gratefulness. But we have not merely to remain polio-free but fight and overcome many other killer and debilitating diseases, malnutrition and insanitation.

The Supreme Court has once again “ordered” that manual scavenging be abolished under the 2013 law and scavengers be swiftly and satisfactorily rehabilitated. But who cares? Gross failure must be recorded across parties whose priorities are very different.

Which party has made eradication of manual scavenging a poll priority in what is turning out to be an increasingly dirty, slanderous and indecorous general election being largely fought by casteists, communalists, criminals, footloose party-hoppers and self-serving “leaders”. The other major accompaniment to electoral dirt is the mounting violence: Maoist, cross-border inspired, and slander.

Another positive development has been the Supreme Court’s order, following a report by a panel headed by Justice Mukul Mudgal on alleged spot-fixing and betting scandals in the BCCI-sponsored Indian Cricket Premier League.

The man in the eye of the storm is N Srinivasan, president of BCCI and chairman of India Cements which sponsors the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and several of its players, including the Indian captain, M S Dhoni who is one of its vice-presidents. Srinivasan had stubbornly refused to recuse himself until such time as the charges against the BCCI and his son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan of India Cements have been independently investigated and cleared.

The Court has now ordered that Srinivasan shall relinquish charge of BCCI and Meiyappan be precluded from any association with CSK until further notice. It has transferred charge of the BCCI to Sunil Gavaskar under whose guidance the 2014 IPL tournament will be played.

The Mudgal Committee has also disbelieved Dhoni’s testimony that Meiyappan was only a “cricket enthusiast” and not a team official who indulged in betting. The Court has not questioned Dhoni’s captaincy on this account nor disqualified CSK and the Rajasthan Royals for the corruption charges levelled against them. These matters will be decided after due deliberation.

These are wise decisions intended to maintain the integrity of Indian cricket, cut out the sleaze and restore the sport to Indian cricket fans from corrupt elements. India finances a large part of international cricket, such being the size of its market. It must therefore play straight bat. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to convert cricket, like much else, to commerce. IPL has come to be controlled by a cabal of politicians, moneybags and other influentials who have used sport to sell their own private political or business agendas. The Supreme Court’s intervention will hopefully surgically excise the cancer.

Ham-handed policy

For the rest, the news remains grim. That Maoists are out to disrupt the poll is no surprise. What continues to surprise is continuing policy ham-handedness. Naxalism is more than a law and order problem. The legal, administrative, developmental and human rights framework in which it must be tackled is decrepit and confused. Few have the time or the inclination to do what is needed. Strong presidential intervention could help give momentum to the reforms that are necessary.

Perhaps more worrying is the stepped-up cross-border intervention from Pakistan not only in the form of jihadi attacks in J&K as in more dangerous efforts by ISI-sponsored sleeper cells operating through the Indian Muhajideen to stage terrorist attacks in sensitive areas, stoke communal polarisation and communal violence, disrupt orderly elections and the polity more generally.

The IM’s local leadership is now fully in the net after its current operational head, Waqas or Tehseen Akhtar was recently arrested at Naxalbari.

Unfortunately, the communal undertones of the poll campaign by the major parties are singularly perverse. The RSS has called for a consolidation of the “Hindu” vote. Western UP, especially the area surrounding it, is yet emotionally-smouldering as is Muzaffarnagar and various temple towns.

If the BJP nominated a rabid communal like Pramod Muthalik of the Sr Ram Sene and then expelled him under pressure, it did the same with Sabir Ali, just expelled from the JD(U), whom BJP vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, termed an associate of the IM terrorist Yasin Bhatkal. He also asked if Dawood Ibrahim would be admitted next? The party quickly expelled Sabir Ali. But who admitted him in the first place and why?

Modi also crudely derided India’s three “AKs”, namely, AK-47’s,AK Anthony and AK-49 or Arvind Kejriwal (referring to his tenure of 49 days as a chief minister)for providing “unique strength to Pakistan”. Not to be outdone, the Congress nominated Imran Masood as its candidate from Saharanpur but expelled him a day later after he commented that in Gujarat there were only four per cent Muslims. But were Modi to stage a riot in Saharanpur, the 42 per cent Muslim population here would “chop him into tiny pieces.”

In this grim scenario, Sharad Pawar’s jokes are improving by the day. Some time back, he boasted of spending far in excess of the Election Commission’s poll ceiling. He has now advised mathadi workers (head loaders) to avail of the differing polling dates at their place of residence and pace of work (Navi Mumbai) to vote twice by erasing the indelible ink mark on their left index finger in the intervening period.

Asked to explain this ardent advocacy of bogus voting, he cheerfully described his remark as a joke. India’s population must be full of dullards who did not catch his brilliant humour unaided. The CEC would be advised to bar this senior leader from holding any elective or public office for six years.

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