Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Thursday said the ‘failure’ of the Election Commission in addressing the concerns raised by the Congress with regard to personal attacks on former Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi, dented the poll panel’s credibility.
“Considering the gravity of the remarks that have been made and the fact that they are most reprehensible, the failure of the EC to address the concerns raised by the Congress do raise a question mark on the fairness of its decision making. They do dent the credibility of the election watchdog,” said Mr. Kumar in an exclusive interview to The Hindu.
Challenge to democracy
“This is unfortunate and represents yet another challenge to our democracy. If people lose faith in institutions of libertarian and liberal democracy, then the credibility of the consent obtained through electoral verdicts itself is in doubt,” he said.
The former Law Minister, who had supervised the functioning of the EC briefly as head of the nodal ministry, said political discourse had reached a ‘new low” with repeated accusations being hurled at Rajiv Gandhi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“I firmly believe that our democracy is facing a serious challenge, not only on account of rancorous discourse but one that has broken all barriers of civility and decency. I don’t believe that democracy and decency are mutually exclusive. In the past, despite all the differences leaders had, nobody made an ideological opposition into personal enmity,” he said.
Responding to the BJP’s charge that Congress president Rahul Gandhi too has called Mr. Modi a ‘thief’ over the Rafale deal allegations, Mr. Kumar said, “The Congress president has explained how the people of India coined that word…While the Prime Minister has the right to defend himself, to rebut the charge but he cannot use the pedestal of his high office to diminish the political discourse and malign his predecessor who is not in this world to answer the charges.”
‘The idea of India’
The Congress leader claimed that the essence of his party’s focus in these elections is to preserve ‘the idea of India’.
“It is not a hackneyed phrase. It is about inclusion as against exclusion, freedom versus fear, equality versus inequality, tolerance versus intolerance and harmony versus discord. Its is within these foundational framework that NYAY [the minimum income guarantee scheme] has to be seen. If there is one theme that will survive the election, it is the obligation of every Indian citizen to protect the idea of India,” Mr. Kumar said.