The Congress party has again become target of the opposition BJP on an issue which could have been easily handled.
The Congress party has again become target of the opposition BJP on an issue which could have been easily handled. But the party keeps reminding us that bad-governance and foot-in-mouth go hand in hand with Congress.
First the party disapproved of election commission’s ten point request to enhance transparency and ban pre-poll surveys. Then it took a U-turn (probably on Rahul Gandhi’s advice we guess) and finding pre-poll surveys ‘unscientific’, sent an approval letter to the EC for the same.
Since when did Congress start strictly following Nehru’s scientific temperament? Interestingly, it happens just after three pre-poll surveys went against the expectations of the ruling party.
By doing this, they have drawn major flak from the opposition. While senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley called the move ‘unconstitutional’, party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi called it a blow on fundamental rights.
In an article on the party’s website, where Jaitley was responding to a statement from the Congress seeking a restriction on opinion polls in the run-up to the elections, he accused the Congress of posing threats to the right of freedom of expression.
“A potential loser in the elections cannot seek to alter the rules of free speech,” he said.
Calling it government’s “unconstitutional censorship order”, he said that the move which was made last month concerning “artificial competition” to the prime minister’s national day speeches was prompted by “Modi-phobia”.
He added that opinion polls too were part of freedom of speech.
“Restricting them is constitutionally neither permissible nor desirable. The Election Commission will be best advised to keep away from the controversy concerning the ban on opinion polls and allow the market place of democracy to accept or reject the findings of the opinion poll,” he said.
“When the trend of opinion polls are adverse to political parties, they rubbish them,” Jaitley said.
“They start demanding a ban. The loser demands a ban and the potential winner wants them to continue. A ban on such polls cannot be considered based on who is demanding the ban,” he said.
Jaitely, who is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said censorship has no place in a democracy, and cannot be enforced directly or indirectly.
“Comment and criticism is a way of life. Even judgments of the highest court can be criticised. All individuals in public life must be subjected to scrutiny. We must be criticised when we go wrong. Criticism is a part of public accountability,” he said.
Meanwhile, Modi said that the biggest casualty of Congress Party’s arrogance, while in power, has been the Fundamental Right to free speech.
“Those who have followed Indian politics, and the workings of the Congress Party after Independence, would agree that the stand of the Congress Party does not come as a surprise. The biggest casualty of the Congress Party’s arrogance while in power, and its tendency to trample over Institutions, has been our Fundamental Right to Free Speech,” Modi wrote in an article titled ‘Today Opinion Polls, what next?’ on his blog.
Raking up the issue of social media freedom when the government tried to suspend twitter handles, he further said that the UPA Government has shown their intolerance towards social media criticism.
“On that occasion I had blackened my Twitter display picture as a mark of solidarity with all those in Social Media who were speaking up for free speech and expression. Some months back, a Restaurant in Mumbai was threatened for expressing its opinion against the UPA’s policies in a creative manner on a Sales Receipt,” he wrote.
Saying that opinion polls in India have had mixed records of getting their predictions right and wrong, Modi said that it was up to the political parties to determine what to do with the findings of an opinion poll.
“As for opinion polls, it is not that I have any particular affinity for them. In fact, I am quite aware of their limitations. Our enlightened pollsters made assertions about how Gujarat will vote against the BJP in 2002, then again in 2007 and even in 2012 with such great confidence only to be proven incorrect by the people,” he said.
“However there is an important principle and ethics here that holds true for every Party and Government. A government that is in denial over where the public opinion really stands, is doomed to be thrown out of power,” he added.
Modi further wrote that it is utterly puerile to resort to extreme steps only because opinion polls do not notify what the political party wants to hear.
“If the poll is favourable, we are free to become complacent or we can continue our work on the ground without becoming over confident. But if they are not favourable to us, we are free to reject the numbers and remain in denial or we can choose to take corrective action where it merits,” he added.
He also wrote that his concern is not limited to this proposal to ban opinion polls, and added that the Congress might resort to even ban the Election Commission, if they lose an election.
“Tomorrow, the Congress may seek a ban on articles, editorials and blogs during election time on the very same grounds. If they lose an election, they may then seek a ban on the Election Commission, and if the Courts do not support them, then they may say why not ban the courts! After all this a Party that resorted to imposing the Emergency in response to an inconvenient Court Verdict,” he said.
As the famous saying goes, people are the best judge, and Modi too acknowledges that. Rather than indulging itself in such petty wars and worthless acts, Congress should focus more on the important issues.
Else, what Modi says next will become the voice of the public:
“If you ask me, the solution is much simpler. Rather than cope with these authoritarian and subversion tactics of the Congress, it is better we reject the anti-democratic Congress, not merely in an opinion poll but in the Polling Booth where it matters the most.”