Rahul Gandhi and Sitaram Yechury Photograph:( PTI )
Even after the Supreme Court's intervention and EC action against the errant leaders, politicians refused to keep a check on their words and conduct.
The run-up to Lok Sabha election 2019 will be remembered not just for the fierce campaigning battle between the opposition parties and the BJP, but also for leaders resorting to offensive statements against one another.
To begin with, BSP leader Azam Khan stirred a row with a below the belt personal remark on Jaya Prada saying, "She wears 'Khaki Underpants'."
This did not stop here. As an add-on, Azam Khan's son called Jaya Prada 'Anarkali'.
Even then, the party leaders did not issue any apology or clarification. In fact, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav's wife, Dimple Yadav, asked media persons to ignore such 'trivial issues'.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court had to intervene and ask for Congress president Rahul Gandhi's apology for attributing the slogan 'Chowkidaar Chor Hai' (referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a corrupt security guard) to the top court.
After displaying initial reluctance, Rahul Gandhi finally apologised to the court.
BJP leader Maneka Gandhi gave another shocker by threatening Muslims to vote for her or she will not help them when she comes to power again. Mayawati and Yogi Adityanath too appealed to voters on the lines of religion.
The Election Commission of India (ECI) had imposed a short ban on UP CM Yogi Adityanath, BSP chief Mayawati, Union Minister Maneka Gandhi and SP leader Azam Khan from election campaigning.
However, this did not serve as a deterrent and leaders continued to make divisive and hate speech.
CPI(M) leader Sita Ram Yechury made a bizarre statement asserting that Hindu mythological books like Ramayana and Mahabharata prove that Hindus are violent.
The statement was an attempt by Yechury to enhance his image as a secular leader by attacking a specific religion.
When so much was happening around, there is no way West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could stay behind. After Modi revealed in an interview that Didi sends him sweets, Banerjee said she will now make sweets with soil and put pebbles in it.
Thereafter, responding to PM's remarks that she refused to take his calls before cyclone Fani hit, said she does not want to share the dais with 'expiry PM', claiming Modi is unlikely to get a second term. She also said she wanted to give the Prime Minister 'a tight slap of democracy'.
Mamata Banerjee, here, clearly ignored a sensitive issue affecting thousands of people. Keeping their differences aside, she should have come together on a single platform with the Prime Minister to discuss the policies and actions. Playing politics over cyclone Fani should have been avoided.
This election, leaders cut across party lines have shown utter disregard for the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). Even after the Supreme Court's intervention and EC action against the errant leaders, they refused to keep a check on their words and conduct.
MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election. However, the norms are not legally enforceable.
The MCC structure has to be reworked to make it legally binding. Parliament needs to grant more powers to the Election watchdog. It should also be empowered to disqualify a candidate from the poll race in severe cases of violations.
However, it's not simply a duty of the Election Commission to ensure the sanctity of elections. Political parties and their leaders too need to come forward and follow the MCC guidelines.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)