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Lok Sabha 2024 Election Campaign | A Shift from Substance to Digression

lok sabha 2024 election campaign   a shift from substance to digression

Despite repeated warnings from the EC to refrain from exploiting identity-based appeals and to uphold the ethics, and sanctity of religious sentiments, such violations persist with impunity.


The surge in cases filed with the Election Commission (EC) and local law enforcement agencies highlights the widespread discontent with the flagrant disregard for ethics and respect in political rhetoric. The shift in election campaigns from focusing on issues of importance to exploiting caste, religion, and divisive tactics for political gain has reached alarming levels as one of the election observers said, “It is a Battle of Integrity – and should be beyond Politics,” suggesting that restoration of ethics to electioneering should be the goal and not the vice versa.


This descent into a new low in political discourse has raised concerns among many citizens and observers, who lament the erosion of ethical standards in electoral politics. One troubling aspect of this trend is the apparent polarisation even within the media and administrative sectors, where neutrality is compromised in favour of taking sides. This departure from impartiality undermines the integrity of democratic processes and exacerbates societal divisions.


The EC’s advisory against using places of worship for electioneering highlights the need for candidates and parties to adhere to ethical standards during campaigning. However, the persistence of such malpractices suggests a deeper decay within the political system that urgently needs to be addressed.


Earlier this week, the Election Commission intervened, especially regarding the responsible use of social media. The EC instructed a social media platform to remove a contentious post from the Karnataka account after the party failed to comply, despite legal notices and an FIR. The post, an animated video addressing Muslim reservation in Kannada, drew criticism from another political party, prompting the EC’s intervention.


Another example of Sam Pitroda’s resignation as the Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress amid escalating controversy over his racially insensitive remarks. His resignation, tendered on Wednesday, was promptly accepted by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge.


Pitroda, known for his close association with Rahul Gandhi, sparked outrage with comments that equated physical appearances of Indians from different regions with racial stereotypes. Specifically, Pitroda’s comparison of people from India’s East to Chinese and those from the South to Africans exacerbated tensions.


While Pitroda’s remarks, according to him, aimed to rejoice in India’s diversity, they received widespread condemnation. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju expressed personal dismay, emphasizing the seriousness of the situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders criticised Congress for the remarks, with Modi denouncing them as insulting to Indians. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also condemned Pitroda’s divisive rhetoric, highlighting her diverse heritage.

Modi capitalized on the controversy by targeting Congress allies in South India, particularly the DMK in Tamil Nadu. He challenged DMK leader MK Stalin to reconsider their alliance with Congress, accusing the party of promoting divisive agendas.

In response, the DMK distanced itself from Pitroda’s remarks, affirming its commitment to Indian unity and rejecting racial differentiation among citizens. Modi further criticized Congress for fostering a divisive narrative, asserting its disregard for national cohesion.

However, Congress blames Modi for encouraging a divisive narrative. Examples of recent remarks by Prime Minister Modi in Rajasthan, where he reportedly referred to Muslims as “infiltrators,” have triggered a widespread backlash, prompting calls for an investigation by election authorities. Although BJP representatives have attempted to clarify Modi’s statements as addressing undocumented migrants, scepticism persists among local citizens.

The controversy surrounding Modi’s campaign rhetoric has spurred legal action, with the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee petitioning the Madras High Court to compel the Election Commission to hold Modi accountable for alleged hate speech. Against the backdrop of escalating tensions, the nation confronts the ramifications of divisive political discourse on its democratic fabric.

In another incident, the video, posted online on May 4th, portrays leaders of the opposition Congress party allegedly favouring Muslims over other minority groups, leading to accusations of promoting religious discord. Despite the BJP’s denial of harbouring anti-Islam sentiments, opposition leaders have expressed concerns regarding the party’s use of polarizing rhetoric to mobilize support.

The animation, featuring caricatures of Congress leaders, was taken down following a request from the Election Commission, yet it has fuelled accusations of Islamophobia within the BJP’s campaign strategy.

Last week, a fabricated video of Amit Shah, home minister surfaced on social media, purportedly capturing his remarks from April 23 during the Vijaya Sankalp Sabha in Telangana. In the video, he allegedly stated that “4 per cent unconstitutional Muslim would be abolished” if the BJP gains control in the state. However, Shah’s actual statement was different: “I want to clarify that if the BJP comes to power, then this unconstitutional Muslim reservation will be abolished. These rights belong to SC, ST, and OBC, and they will be given to them by abolishing Muslim reservation.” A police case was filed for falsely editing the video and some arrests were also made by the police.

As the Delhi campaign gains momentum, where all seven seats are going to polls on May 25, the Election Commission has directed the chief election officer (CEO) of Delhi to ensure strict action against anonymous election hoardings lacking the names and addresses of the printer and publisher.

The EC emphasized the need for swift measures to remove or confiscate such election material and to sensitize municipal and police authorities. Citing numerous complaints from stakeholders, including political parties, regarding these violations of electoral laws and the Model Code of Conduct, the EC outlined various legal provisions to address such offences. It urged all concerned officials to adhere strictly to these instructions, particularly as Delhi enters the campaign period for the Lok Sabha election.

The EC warned of deliberate attempts to circulate anonymous handbills, pamphlets, and hoardings, which could potentially disrupt the electoral atmosphere and undermine the campaign discourse. The ECI emphasized the importance of upholding electoral integrity and urged political parties to refrain from misuse of AI tools, dissemination of misinformation, and propagation of derogatory content during election campaigns. Parties were reminded of their responsibility to promptly remove false information, comply with laws, and ensure the ethical use of social media platforms.

As India grapples with a heated general election, strict guidelines prohibit the exploitation of religious sentiments for political gain. Nearly all contesting political parties, ruling and opposition, have urged the Election Commission to address the issue promptly emphasizing the importance of unity in a diverse democracy.

As someone rightly said the electorate deserves a campaign focused on solutions to pressing challenges rather than appeals to narrow identities. Only by returning to a politics of ethics and respect can India uphold the integrity of its democratic institutions.

Author is National Editor,

Greater Kashmir.