Right course

The ban orders issued against BJP leader Amit Shah and UP minister and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan and the strictures passed against them are the strongest actions taken by the Election Commission against electoral offenders during the current campaign.

Their comments were also the most objectionable among the many bad and indecorous ones made by many leaders from platforms across the country. An earlier comment made by a Congress candidate from UP that he would cut Narendra Modi into pieces had invited much opprobrium. It led to his arrest also.

If that was a bad comment at a personal level, the comments of Amit Shah and Azam Khan are more serious because they openly appealed to sectarian sentiments and incited communities. The fact that both are close lieutenants of the top leaders of their parties makes their offences worse.

Amit Shah asked the Jats in western UP to take revenge for the insults suffered by them last year. The Muzaffarnagar riots of last year between Jats and Muslims have communalised elections in the whole region.

Shah’s comments made a direct reference to the riots and violated all norms of poll conduct. They also amounted to violation of the law under various sections. Shah had once been externed from his home state of Gujarat by the Supreme Court.

The commission did well to ban him from public functions but unfortunately he will continue to influence the party’s campaign in UP in many ways. Azam Khan has also been known to be a communal and divisive figure in UP politics.

His comments that the Kargil war was won by only Muslim soldiers and that Rajiv Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi received divine punishment with their unnatural deaths were entirely in character for a person who has revelled in controversial and divisive statements.

The Election Commission’s powers are substantial but limited too in these situations. It has also told the UP government to file FIRs against the two and the government has formally complied with the directive. But it is anybody’s guess where the cases will lead to. The state government is known to be highly partisan.

The BJP leadership has justified Amit Shah’s comments. The parties of both the leaders, who have obviously erred and violated norms and laws, have only supported them and this is shameful. The Election Commission’s action should serve to expose these parties too and make the people aware of their hypocritical and dangerous positions.

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