The political leaders are indulging in the mud-slinging during poll campaigns for the upcoming Assembly elections in five states. It’s nothing but hurting the dignity of Indian democracy. In this age of information revolution, no statement of politicians can stay concealed from public scanner. In spite of that, they are not willing to put any restraint upon themselves. The scope of their speeches is limited to series of accusations, allegations and counter allegations and taking personal pot-shots at each other. It seems that talks on some of the key issues and policies are no longer within their realm of discussion. Since a major chunk of society exhibits interest towards such tall talks of the leaders, that’s why even the media does not shy off from giving importance to such ‘weighty’ statements. People have right to know about the conduct of leaders, who claim to represent them. As of now, there is no such system in our country, which can deliver more information to the people regarding their leaders and make an assessment on whether they are competent enough to represent them or running the government machinery.

Last week, the Election Commission had dashed off a caution notice to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Congress came down heavily on Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate over a remark he had made during a poll rally. Modi had described the Congress’ logo as ‘Khooni Panja’. Congress does not like the way Modi is describing Rahul Gandhi as ‘Shehzada.’ The Gujarat CM went on saying that Congress is contesting elections with the help of CBI and Indian Mujahideen. Also, there is no dearth of such leaders in Congress who had hogged the headlines over their baseless remarks. Recently, Sonia Gandhi said that the BJP leaders just keep on dreaming of gaining power. However, the Congress itself is harbouring such dreams. Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal has joined the league of such leaders saying that a tea vendor can’t become Prime Minister of the country. Naresh Agarwal’s statement reflects feudal mindset which insults that particular section of people, who idolize those who carves a niche for themselves purely on the basis of their hard work and eventually reaches zenith of success.

Gone are the days when the politicians would use polite language against each other. They used to take care of the fact that political comment didn’t make at personal level. They would avoid making comments which could have created an enmity in the political corridor. Unfortunately, that dignified line ceases to exist these days and this has resulted in increased bitterness amongst politicians, which at times goes to such an extent that even the prospect of arriving at consensus becomes a pretty difficult job. A glance at the tenure of UPA government makes it clear that a number of issues of national importance halted due to differences between Congress and BJP. Political disparities between Congress and BJP are natural to exist, but what’s pretty disappointing is – these disparities have transformed into enmity of sorts, mainly due to the leaders’ tendency of making things personal. Congress accuses BJP of not playing the role of a constructive Opposition and its way of expressing unhappiness over certain issues has acted as hindrance towards smooth functioning of the UPA. On the contrary, BJP has also been accusing Congress of being egoistic and exhibiting arrogance. It’s not clear that whose claims hold much substance, but the standards of national politics are stooping continuously and the main problem is – this series of slide is showing no sign of pause. In order to defame each other, the political parties are digging ghosts and based on these, they are pinning sensational blames. Recently, a few leaders have been subjected to certain allegations, which were brought into application on previous occasions as well. In such a scenario, it has become pretty important for the political parties to sit down, discuss and come up with a way to rein in statements emerging out of unbridled thoughts. The political leaders should also show restraint and decency not only during rallies but also on other occasions. There is no doubt over the fact that the air warms up in the run-up to elections, but it does not mean that they cross all limitations in their speeches.

The Election Commission has limited roles in curbing such indecorous statements of leaders. It has recently taken cognizance of some of the inappropriate remarks, of which Rahul Gandhi’s case is a well-illustrated example. The EC’s roles in such issues are just limited to expressing disagreement, issuing warnings or reprimanding the candidates. The EC has no such authority to give stern message to the political leaders indulging in sarcastic remarks.

Only a fragment of speeches of political leaders make its way to media outlets. On several occasions, it becomes difficult to grasp the actual context of those speeches. The politicians can often be seen complaining that their views have been misinterpreted. Presenting such logics is nothing but saving their skin beneath convenient arguments. They are not ready to talk on developing such a modus operandi which could enable them to appear on television and participate in debate. People can get an opportunity to know about the political machinery as well as politicians only through such methods. Only selected people can attend political rallies and often hired people comprising a major section of the crowd. In such a scenario, people are left with no option but to rely on media reports in order to make an opinion about a particular candidate.

It’s not clear when Election Commission will be able to come up with any fundamental changes on such issues, especially over the unbridled statements of candidates. The people will not get a clear picture of the party’s policies and candidates until such a system evolves. In order to reinforce the democratic set up of India, a framework will have to be put in place, even if it requires constitution of provisions by the Election Commission. Democracy got an injection of reinvigoration in several countries mainly because ample amount of stress has been laid down to keep transparency intact in each and every step. In countries like USA, the process of election is based largely on direct debate between the candidates. It’s a matter of sheer misfortune that the Indian political brethren are keeping a safe distance from this procedure.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on November 17, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)