The present edition of Parliamentary elections have seen one of the worst in campaigning standards with parties and the leaders stooping so low that for a common man the whole gamut of electioneering looks more of a tamasha than the real exercise to strengthen democratic institutions. Even the campaigning has gone to the extent of dragging a secular institution of army into the controversy. There is no denying that the ongoing Lok Sabha election has seen a plethora of violations of the Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC). From UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath to SP’s Azam Khan, several leaders have been guilty of spewing derogatory comments. And while the EC has handed out campaigning bans in some cases, this clearly hasn’t deterred politicians from cocking a snook at the MCC. Additionally, politicians are increasingly devising new ways to get around the MCC and the EC’s strictures. For example, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself may have violated the poll code by reportedly holding a road show when he went to cast his vote in Ahmedabad. The EC is looking into the case. Similarly, Congress president Rahul Gandhi may have pushed the envelope by calling BJP president Amit Shah a murder accused at an election rally. All of this goes to show that politicians aren’t afraid to test the MCC or the EC’s patience. Clearly, the poll body’s reprimand is no longer a deterrence. Hence, it is time to give the MCC more legal teeth. This is particularly necessary given the changing nature of election campaigns with the advent of online media. The latter has enabled all sorts of surrogate campaigning that seek to exploit grey areas in the MCC. Therefore, the EC needs to be particularly strict and not shy away from imposing penal provisions against violators. True, this may cause some disruption in the poll schedule. But it is worth to clean up election campaigning in India. Otherwise, things will only go from bad to worse.
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