While one may argue that Modi didn't breach any Model Code of Conduct, yet, the situation goes far beyond the legal framework and censorship.
Party worker first, Prime Minister later. Really? Or, Prime Minister first, anything else then? What sounds more appropriate. Back in 2014, when Narendra Modi, the newly elected Prime Minister, set a new precedent and went on to campaign for BJP in four state Assembly elections, the scenes soured many eyes and questions were raised on how a head of the state can still oppose other parties’ agenda in the state-level politics. Many saw Modi’s gesture as ‘stooping’ from the standards of a Prime Minister. At that time, BJPians defended by saying that Modi was made the Prime Minister by the party lawmakers and hence it’s justified for him to campaign for his ‘mother party’.
However, unheeded by criticism, Modi went ahead with campaigning for the party, and BJPians found competent arguements to justify it. It even paid off well in 2014’s four state Assembly elections as BJP swept Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand in Modi’s name. Modi’s campaign at that time was more like an extension of his election campaign trail, he reiterated the claims and promises made by him in recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. The just-elected PM, a revolutionary in people’s eye, had a vision ready for the nation, and perhaps their states too.
As time passed, and Modi government became an year old, we saw a crucial Bihar and Delhi election. This time, things didn’t go the Modi way. While the PM continued to attack state governments, his deeds, along with the words, were also in consideration this time. The BJP suffered a nightmare in Delhi, followed by an under-performance in Bihar. While Many of Modi’s actions, like announcement of special package for Bihar remained questionable, one thing was evindent – Modi didn’t utter a single word on communal lines even though Amit Shah and likes of him continued making remarks such as, “Agar BJP haari to Pakistan mein patakhe footenge.”
Now, as we move on to the present, as the BJP and Modi headed for mother of all – Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections, the party had two major things to bank upon– demonetisation and surgical strikes. Right from the day one, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and their fellow campaigners’ speeches featured demonetisation as a “brave effort to confront corrupt” and Army’s Surgical Strikes, something for what central government provided space for.
But as opposition parties, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati continued demanding credentials of demo’s success and central government’s work for UP, the development gimmick saw a back seat. Modi and saffron party were back to basics. The only difference, and the huge difference is – that Modi, the PM, himself participated this time.
Modi, during a speech in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, on Sunday, said: “Ramzan me bijli aati hai, toh Diwali me bhi aani chahiye; bhedbhav nahi hona chahiye (when electricity is available on Ramzan, then its supply should be ensured during Diwali as well. There shouldn’t be any discrimination.” He added: “If there is a kabaristaan, there should be shamshaan too.”
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Though Modi’s polarising remarks were not new, this time he wasn’t only the chief campaigner of BJP, but also the Prime Minister of country, with his statements having a country-wide, in fact global impact. Sadly, Modi’s was a more more belligerent voice, reminiscent of his 2002 days. While one may argue that Modi didn’t breach any Model Code of Conduct, yet, the situation goes far beyond the legal framework and censorship. Without any proofs, Modi asked voters not to elect “candidates with terror-links”. The scope of his words was way beyond the poll-bound UP. Can a Prime Minister tamper with facts and indulge in rabble rousing? Aren’t these irresponsible comments hurting the stature of the Prime Minister? What international media, which once backed Modi for his good governance and development, will derive of it?
While public memory is short-lived, history remembers everything. Rajiv Gandhi’s “earth-shaking” comments after the Sikh riots are still mentioned in debates. The sentiments of a citizen, who watches Modi, as a protagonist of development and the statesman country always waited for, takes a hit after petty political gimmicks. One expects prime minister’s language to be more matured. Prime Minister first, anything else then. That’s it.