Millennium Post

Battle of the ballots gets an ugly start

It is extremely regrettable and ironical that on the very day the Election Commission announced the poll dates, breaking down the election that will commence from 7 April onwards, into nine phases, the nation witnessed one of most deplorable show of interparty violence. More disparagingly, the clashes that broke out between the supporters of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were premised upon, paradoxically enough, the model code of conduct that had come into effect immediately after the poll dates were announced by the EC. As Kejriwal, who is on a four-day appraisal of Gujarat, was detained at a police station in the state, ostensibly for not asking the EC’s permission before embarking on the trip, the resultant chaos that engulfed the party offices in Delhi and Lucknow, was in one word, abominable. In a direct travesty of robust democratic politics, use of batons and water-cannons by the police was matched by hurling of stones and chairs at leaders by the party workers. While AAP leaders, including Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav, appealed for calm and requested their supporters not to indulge in violence despite instigation, the same couldn’t be said of others. Evidently, the abrupt turn now taken by Kejriwal’s arraignment of Modiland, including his scathing criticism of the Gujarat model of development, is because of the sinister decision to subject him to detention and not allowing any leeway for him to go through the protocol of seeking permission from the EC.

Even though the model code of conduct prescribes a number of rules and regulations for the party workers and leaders to adhere to, none of them prevents a candidate to campaign in a peaceful manner. Criteria – such as use of loud speakers, respecting privacy of opponents, not hindering road traffic, not distributing liquor and freebies, announcing poll-driven welfare programmes as vote-catching exercise, occupying significant public spaces regularly used for government and other servicemen, cooperating with poll duty officers and voters, refraining from displaying election symbols close to polling booths – have been listed in the code of conduct. Yet, on the very first day of the election campaign after the announcement of the polling dates, more or less, all these regulations were consigned to dust. In fact, workers brought to life the worst of fears that experts have expressed about this general election. Under no circumstances can branding of a new political party and its educated leader as an ‘urban Maoist’ and subjecting him to unceremonious harassment in the wake of his frontal attack on policy matters be condoned by any politically-aware mind, no matter which side of the party lines s/he has allegiances with.
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