Insinuations about Narendra Modi’s ‘undeclared’ wife and Rahul Gandhi’s ‘foreign women friends’ clogged the airspace as the election campaign in India became dirty and the stakes went higher.
On Friday, angered by the communal tone of Amit Shah, the former Gujarat home minister and Narendra Modi’s man in Uttar Pradesh; and Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party who said recently that the Kargil war was won by Muslim soldiers, the Election Commission banned both leaders from addressing rallies, road shows and public meetings.
Such an order has never been issued against active politicians in recent memory. But because the Election Commission is the most powerful body that assumes all civilian powers during the conduct of an election, its quasi judicial order will have to be complied with.
This order amounts to the virtual internment of these two leaders who have been thought to be inflaming religious passions.
“The Election Commission has zero tolerance for anything – or anyone – who tries to subvert the democratic process and will use all powers in its command to prevent this,” a top EC official said.
The election campaign teetered on the edge of indecency.
Despite strong BJP protests, the official Congress party website continued to post a picture of former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee decrying the 2002 Gujarat riots and recalling his comment that he agreed with those who felt Modi should have resigned from the office of state chief minister after so many lost their lives.
It is highly unusual for a political party to post a picture and comments of a prime minister of its closest rival. The Madhya Pradesh chapter of BJP today filed a police complaint against Congress President Sonia Gandhi, alleging that her party’s website resorted to false statements while using Vajpayee’s name on it. In the complaint, the party said the Congress was resorting to ‘false statements’ in a bid to entice voters.
Last week the Congress had made much of The Economist magazine, which had refused to endorse Modi’s candidature for the office of prime minister. This week, the website featured an article in UK’s Guardian newspaper, which said ‘Narendra Modi, a man with a massacre on his hands is not a reasonable choice for India’.
The Congress also launched a campaign about Modi’s wife. Accompanied by many nudge-nudge wink-wink statements (Anand Sharma said now that the nation knew Narendra Modi was married, congratulations were in order) the Congress launched a frontal attack on Modi for not disclosing his marital status.
However, as the BJP – especially its IT brigade – was expecting this, they too went into overdrive. Anonymous emails said if Modi had not declared he had a wife, neither had Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in his affidavit.
In a tit-for-tat move, the BJP also threatened to bring out skeletons of a personal nature in the cupboard of the Nehru-Gandhi family. Senior BJP leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad and Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said the Congress’ attack on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Modi on the issue of his marriage would ‘boomerang’.
Supporters also began citing all those who’ve had two wives including Mulayam Singh Yadav (who married his second wife after the first one had died and publicly announced he had a son from that relationship). Insinuations are also being made about Rahul Gandhi’s foreign women friends.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2014.