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It’s election time, don’t strangle civility!

   By Vijay Darda | 29-04-2024

It is astonishing that so many politicians’ tongues have gone wild, as if a storm of hostility is raging!

We all know that the model code of conduct is in force across the country. During the campaigning, neither the religious symbols can be used nor votes can be solicited on the basis of religion, caste and creed. Any form of speech that promotes discrimination or fosters animosity is strictly forbidden. But what is actually happening on the ground is no secret. The tongues of the leaders have become unrestrained, as if a storm of hostility is raging.

Criticising each other’s policies can and should be an essential aspect of elections but it is unacceptable to make serious and malicious accusations against one another. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs has inflicted serious harm upon the very foundation of Indian society. According to the Election Commission’s own data, over 200 complaints regarding violations of the model code of conduct had been received until last week. The Election Commission has taken action on 169 of these complaints. Among these, 51 complaints were lodged against the BJP, with action being taken in 38 cases. The Congress party filed 59 complaints, resulting in action being taken in 51 instances. Additionally, 90 complaints were received from other political parties and action has been taken in 80 cases. However, the figures continue to rise.

In fact, the leaders have demeaned the language so much during this election that I would not even like to use those sentences in my column. I have seen the universally acceptable form of politics since childhood and have followed it in my own political life. I would like to mention two incidents in particular. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was scheduled to visit Yavatmal for a campaign meeting against my father and veteran freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda aka Babuji. In those days, even big leaders used to travel by train. They used to stay at some party worker’s house. After alighting from the train, they used to go to the destination by car. At that time, there were only a few cars. The local leaders had made arrangements for a car to bring Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Dhamangaon to Yavatmal. However, the car broke down even before reaching Dhamangaon. Concerned about the situation, the local leaders contacted Babuji and informed him about the car breakdown. They urgently needed his help as the train was scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes. Babuji, who was affectionately called Bhaiyyaji by everyone, assured them not to worry and promised that another car would be arranged. Babuji immediately contacted Bhattadji from Birla Ginning Mill and requested him to send a car. Bhattadji and others were astonished to hear that Bhaiyyaji was asking for a car for Atalji. Babuji also reached out to Jairamdas Bhagchand, who was involved in the cotton business, and asked him to send a car as well. Eventually, both cars reached Dhamangaon railway station. When Atalji inquired about the two cars, he was informed that they were sent by Dardaji. The reason for sending two cars was to ensure that even if one car encountered any issues, Atalji would still be able to reach the meeting venue on time. Atalji was taken aback to learn that Babuji had sent cars for the person who was going to campaign against him. After the meeting, Atalji visited our house to meet Babuji.

Let me recount one more incident. I had the privilege of accompanying Babuji during his election campaign. As we were passing through Darwha taluka of Yavatmal district, Babuji suddenly spotted Buchkeji, who was contesting against him, standing along the roadside. Without hesitation, Babuji turned the car around and inquired about the situation. Buchkeji explained that his car had broken down. Showing great magnanimity, Babuji invited him to sit in the car and personally dropped him off to his meeting venue. Despite the ideological differences between these leaders, they held a deep respect for one another. I vividly recall the visits of George Fernandes, Madhu Dandavate, Madhu Limaye and numerous other leaders to Babuji. Personally, I maintain a friendly disposition towards individuals with differing political ideologies. My point is that while differences of opinion are inevitable, discord should be avoided. Unfortunately, the decline in the level of election campaigning today is undermining the very foundations of democracy. I firmly believe that regardless of how vehemently we criticise each other, our language should always remain rational and reasonable. This reminds me of a couplet by the renowned poet Bashir Badr:

Dushmani jam kar karo

lekin ye gunjaish rahe,

Jab kabhi ham dost ho

jayen to sharminda na ho.

We are the inhabitants of the land which belongs to Maryada Purushottam Lord Shri Ram and Karmayogi Lord Shri Krishna and hence should reflect upon whether we are truly embodying their teachings. While we revere Lord Mahavir, Lord Buddha, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is crucial to assess our own behaviour. As the elections are currently underway and will conclude tomorrow, it is disheartening to witness the harmful impact of the venomous words being exchanged. These wounds inflicted upon one another have no remedy. In these modern times, safeguarding the social fabric is of utmost importance. The entire nation is observing our actions. Let us remember that elections and the power derived from them can never be more important than the honour of our country. This is the essence of our democracy. The country must always come first, with everything else following suit. I humbly implore you not to suffocate the civilisation of our beloved nation.

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