Terms of incivility
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BJP quibbles over Pranab's signature, Congress wanted JPC to call Fernandes and Vajpayee
It was always clear that the presidential contest is going to be more revealing for its process than its outcome. Now, the BJP's prolonged carping on the matter of Pranab Mukherjee's signature is threatening to turn it into a marker of graceless politics. Admittedly, Purno Sangma is faced with an unenviable task. To make a dent, or even to attract notice to his candidature, Sangma must make a noise, kick up some dust. Yet to insist, in the face of Mukherjee's denials, that the signature on his letter of resignation from the Kolkata-based Indian Statistical Institute is forged, is to scrape the bottom of the barrel of oppositional tactics and stratagems. But the BJP is not alone in its small-mindedness. Including the names of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former defence minister George Fernandes in the now withdrawn list of witnesses to be summoned by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the spectrum allocation scam, has cast unflattering light on the Congress as well. The threat to put in the dock two senior leaders, confined to their homes because of illness and age, is spectacularly insensitive.
In a vivacious and argumentative democracy in which political competition is becoming more intense, there are bound to be the occasional indiscretions. In the states, the line that divides the oppositional from the uncivil is crossed far more frequently, and mostly it seems to bring no political penalties. Those involved in the blood feuds between Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh, or between the DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, or between the Badal family and Amarinder Singh in Punjab, have routinely cast aside a sense of proportion and decorum. But even by those low standards set in a culture of impunity, for the main opposition party at the Centre to reduce the presidential fight to an artificially induced quibble over a signature, and for the ruling party to show glaring disrespect to the incapacity of two senior leaders, is for politics to plumb new lows.
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