Election Commission must act firmly to deter incendiary rhetoric in Delhi

The run up to the polling date to elect a government for Delhi has been marked by increasingly polarising rhetoric on the part of BJP’s high profile campaigners. Yesterday, the Election Commission issued a show cause notice to the junior minister of finance Anurag Thakur. The Commission’s notice said that Thakur’s remarks at a recent rally had the potential to disrupt communal harmony. He isn’t the only egregious offender. Parvesh Verma, BJP’s Lok Sabha representative for West Delhi, has been even more provocative.

A couple of issues are worth being considered by the Election Commission. Rarely are polarising remarks one-off incidents. Often, they fit a pattern of escalatory rhetoric as the polling day approaches. It is reasonable to assume that a pattern indicates complicity of a political party’s leadership.

Also read: Delhi polls – EC orders removal of Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma as BJP’s star campaigners

The Election Commission now needs to consider if its preferred approach of a cooling off period for the offender really solves the core issue. If there is a pattern at play, very likely another member of a political party will carry on with the incendiary rhetoric. If this is to be deterred, it may be time to consider the legal route to prevent offenders from contesting an election or two. A rap on the knuckles will no longer suffice.

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