By Sunil Garodia
There can be only two scenarios for Yogi Adityanath calling the Indian Army “Modiji ki sena”. Either he broke the model code of conduct (MCC) or he didn’t. Once the Election Commission decided that he did break the MCC and it was not satisfied with the reply he gave to its show cause notice, why did it let him off with just a rap on the knuckles by warning him and asking him to desist from making such comments in future?
Ideally, the EC should have handed him a punishment of not being able to address election rallies anywhere in India for a period of seven days (or any other length of time it thought best). But it seems that it is not within the powers of the EC to punish someone from breaking the MCC. Then what is the use of having the MCC? It also makes the EC a toothless body in these matters.
The EC has warned Yogi Adityanath for using the army for political purposes and has asked to be cautious in the future. Maybe he will adhere by the EC diktat in this particular matter. But what will stop him for making another such outrageous statement picking on any other national institution? Further, emboldened by lack of punishment, others will now join the bandwagon and make even more outrageous comments. Unless legal sanctity is granted to the MCC, politicians will continue to break it with impunity. The best way to punish those who break it is to silence them for some time.
If India really wants to have free and fair elections based on a model code of conduct, all political parties must join hands to provide legal sanctity to the MCC by spelling out acceptable and unacceptable behavior and providing punishment for each class of unacceptable behavior by enacting a law for the same. The EC must be made the sole arbiter for the same. Until that is done, we may very well pat ourselves on the back and say that we are a civilized society to have the MCC, but we are fooling none but ourselves.
But with the EC having gone on record to say that it is not possible to make the MCC legally enforceable, there is little chance of that happening despite a parliamentary standing committee having recommended the same in 2013. The EC has said in the past that “bringing the MCC on the statute books will only be counter-productive.” If that is the case, then we might drop the MCC altogether and let the elections be more free for all than they already are.