Union Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid had sharp words of criticism for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, the Election Commission and the Supreme Court during a one-hour talk he gave here on Wednesday.
Speaking on “Challenges of democracy in India” at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Mr. Khurshid was caustic in speaking about the “presidential style” of electioneering of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
Referring to certain new guidelines of the Election Commission, he said: “You should not do or say anything that wins you an election; you should try your best to lose them” appears to be its “broad philosophical approach.” According to new instructions, party manifestos must make no promises, such as an offer of building roads, as this “distorts democratic decision-making.” You should also not offer drinking water because that distorts decision-making, the Congress leader said.
While describing the commission as a “very vigorous and highly respected” body that had cleaned up the election process, he found it an anomaly that “three of them [Election Commissioners] can decide what word you can use in an election campaign.”
The Supreme Court, Mr. Khurshid said, is entering the domain of Parliament, leading to a situation where an “unelected, unaccountable body” offers views and takes decisions that “in democratic theory is really an area of Parliament or government to decide.”
“They are also deciding now who can go to Parliament and who can’t. This is not law, but judge-made law.”
Asked by a student if he had not lowered the standards of debate by calling Mr. Modi “impotent,” Mr. Khurshid said that for a “serious debate in the country,” Mr. Modi must stop flaunting his “Chhappan inch Chhati” (56-inch chest) and calling Congress president Sonia Gandhi “dus numbri” (Number 10). Mr. Modi’s presidential-style campaign did not fit in a parliamentary democracy, he said.
“There is enormous disquiet within the BJP,” Mr. Khurshid said. “Leaders such as Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi are in distress. They say they are helpless because the cadres are with Modi,” he later told presspersons.
On the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress leader said that its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, was saying things that the Congress had been saying for the past 50 years, and people believed him.