What promoted the law minister to take on the CEC was perhaps his innate desire to emulate the Gujarat chief minister
Ajay Singh | February 13, 2012
In the post-riot Gujarat elections in 2002 the election commission headed by JM Lyngdoh faced an unusual predicament. He was facing the ire of chief minister Narendra Modi for not kowtowing to the election plans conceived by the BJP leadership. There is nothing wrong in casual run-ins between the EC and the incumbent chief minister. But Modi took the battle to a new level in his innovative and inimitable style. He let Gujarat’s electorate know the full name of the CEC and kept referring to him as “James Michael Lyngdoh”. Obviously, Modi’s utterances did not transgress the law. But his intention did violate the spirit of the law.
This was a clear attempt to project the CEC as member of the “other community” out to harm interests of a certain community in a highly polarised state. The strategy might have worked to Modi’s advantage but it flagrantly violated the spirit of democracy and law. Union law minister Salman Khurshid’s statement on the introduction of a Muslim quota after the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections must be seen in this context.
Unlike Modi whose brush with the statecraft was elementary in 2002, Khurshid is an eminent lawyer and adequately educated abroad to have acquired the skills and sophistication of a western democrat. Yet, he chooses to defy the election commission by stating that he has not violated any code of conduct simply by articulating his party’s promise to Muslims. That his antics are well-choreographed is a fact confirmed by the manner in which Priyanka Vadra later endorsed him.
A shrewd lawyer that he is , Khurshid has been trying hard to project himself as champion of the Muslim cause just as two rounds of polls in UP are over. His desperation to take this cause is prompted by the assessment that a significant section of Muslims is still sceptical of throwing in its lot with the Congress. In the next five rounds of polls, Muslim voters will be strategically important for the Congress to win the maximum seats. It is this assessment that prompts Khurshid to throw all norms to the wind and take on the EC.
Like Modi in 2002, Khurshid knows it too well that he will easily get away with his indiscretion. A frustrated EC approached the president who has rightly recommended to prime minister Manmohan Singh to take “suitable action”. In the meantime, party strategists will whip up the debate on the Muslim reservation in order to project the Congress as protector of their interests. As of now, the minority reservation issue has miserably failed to connect the electorate in the state. Neither the BJP nor the Congress has gained any mileage out of it despite their best attempt to communalise the issue.
Perhaps Khurshid found it difficult to suppress his innate desire to emulate Modi to see his party through in the UP elections. His attempt to repeat history may end up in enacting a farce which he will rue subsequently.
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