After several days of inaction while India’s politicians went on a rampage, both the Supreme Court (SC) and the Election Commission (EC) have finally taken some concrete steps. Following up on its orders last week banning the release of the Narendra Modi biopic till after the elections are over and asking for all content on NaMo TV to be pre-certified, the EC banned Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for 72 hours and, in the case of BSP chief Mayawati, the ban is for the next 48 hours. While Mayawati had exhorted Muslims to not vote for the BJP, Adityanath said that while the Opposition believed in Ali, the BJP believed in Bajrang Bali. The next speech on the EC’s radar is now that of prime minister Narendra Modi where it has to determine whether or not he was politicising the Balakot strike, something that the EC has banned as part of the Model Code of Conduct. Though, as this newspaper has argued earlier, if a more muscular policy is part of the BJP’s appeal to voters, it is not clear how the EC expects the BJP to campaign on Balakot without politicising it.
If the EC’s actions were long overdue, the SC also decided to issue a notice to Congress president Rahul Gandhi for stating, after its ruling last week permitting the use of ‘stolen’ documents in the Rafale case, that the SC had accepted there was corruption in the Rafale deal and that Modi had given `30,000 crore to Anil Ambani. While BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi had filed a petition on this in the SC, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the SC had not made any such observation and has asked Gandhi to give an explanation within a week.
It is not clear how much impact the EC has since, apart from the statements made by Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi was heard telling Muslim voters that she couldn’t guarantee them jobs if they didn’t vote for her; at another event, she said villages that voted in higher numbers for the BJP would be the first to get their work done. While the SC came down on the EC for saying it has limited powers to curb those violating the code of conduct, stern action against leaders like Mayawati and Adityanath should act as a deterrent.