Politics

EC Should Act Against Kolaveri Didi’s Meltdown That’s Precipitating A Constitutional Crisis

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 
Snapshot
  • There is a clear possibility of constitutional breakdown in West Bengal, and this is what needs focus by the media, the Commission and the judiciary.

    Mamata’s pique is a threat to basic constitutional norms.

It is interesting to note that demands on the Election Commission to act against alleged hate speech or other violations of its Model Code of Conduct (MCC) have suddenly gone mute as the offenders are now not named Narendra Modi or Yogi Adityanath.

In recent days, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee have made personal attacks on the Prime Minister and his spouse, with Banerjee even talking about giving him the “slap of democracy”; an actor-turned-buffoon politician has been calling Nathuram Godse a Hindu terrorist; and a mentor of the Congress party chief dismissed the 1984 Congress attacks that killed over 3,000 Sikhs with three words (“hua to hua”). But not one politician has called for action against them. There have been no PILs in the Supreme Court demanding action against Kamal Haasan, or Mayawati or Mamata.

This is actually the right thing to do. India’s elections are not meant to be antiseptic tournaments where everyone plays the gentleman’s game and tut-tuts at the occasional breach of rules. It is a no-holds-barred contest where no one holds anything back, at least verbally, and if at all anything needs to be barred, it should be calls to violence.

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Sticks and stones may break bones, but words don’t hurt anyone physically. It is the former transgression that needs banning, not the latter.

Unfortunately, the early obsession with Modi’s alleged violations of the MCC allowed the Lutyens media to glide over real issues like the unending violence in Banerjee’s West Bengal, where every one of the last six phases has seen people being intimidated, beaten or even killed for trying to exercise their franchise.

More recently, Kolaveri Didi has been busy denying her opponents the right to even campaign, with Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and even Smriti Irani being allegedly denied permission to hold rallies. A Bharatiya Janata Party worker who circulated a morphed image of Mamata Banerjee has been sent to jail, and people who cried Jai Shri Ram when she was in the vicinity were detained for questioning before being let off.

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If this is not a clear and direct violation of the basics of election-related political rights – allowing everyone to campaign and exercise his or her right to free speech and expression – one wonders what is.

The Election Commission and the Lutyens media have been wrongly focused on banning politically incorrect speech with communal or caste overtones, while giving Didi a free pass on violations of fundamental rights like free speech and freedom from intimidation.

A few months ago, Banerjee’s state police were busy intimidating customs officials for stopping the wife of Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee to check what she was bringing into the country. A CBI team was detained by the local police when it tried to question a Kolkata police officer in connection with the Sarada and Rose Valley ponzi schemes.

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Then, there has been pure bad behaviour on Banerjee’s part. When Modi called her to discuss central help after cyclone Fani, she refused to take his call. Naveen Patnaik in Odisha acted with grace and humility in putting this issue above party politics.

It is clear that Didi is having a meltdown, for the BJP seems to be rising in West Bengal – something she considered impossible till some time ago. In the process, she is not only violating the Constitution, but also damaging centre-state relations.

More than the occasional name-calling or politically incorrect speech, the Election Commission needs to act against direct efforts on the part of Didi to prevent free and fair elections.

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There is a clear possibility of constitutional breakdown in West Bengal, and this is what needs focus by the media, the Commission and the judiciary.

Mamata’s pique is a threat to basic constitutional norms.

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