Questions have again been raised about the Election Commission’s handling of complaints relating to violations of the model code of conduct by parties and political leaders during the ongoing election campaign. The country has seen a spirited campaign for elections to the five state assemblies. While polling is over in three states, campaigning is on in two others, where the polling is yet to take place.
Leaders from all parties have done hectic campaigning and the statements, announcements and actions of many of them have come under scrutiny for violation of the model code. The EC has to be vigilant about them and take appropriate action when violations are proved. But there are complaints that the EC is found wanting in responding to complaints against BJP leaders while it is seen to be very willing to act on complaints against Opposition leaders.
This week, the EC issued a show-cause notice to Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi for “unverified and false” statements she allegedly made about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the basis of a complaint from the BJP. The statement was that Modi had “privatised public sector undertakings” and handed over the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited to his industrialist friends. The EC issued a notice to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal for social media comments and footage which alleged that Modi “works” for the industrialist Gautam Adani. The notice said the AAP was expected “to exercise caution through verification of facts before publishing such content.” But it is pointed out that the EC has not acted on complaints made against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and other BJP leaders even though some of these could be considered more serious violations of the model code.
The Prime Minister announced the extension of the free ration scheme for five years at an election rally in Chhattisgarh. Home Minister Amit Shah announced free darshan for the people of Madhya Pradesh at the Ram temple in Ayodhya if they elected the BJP. There were other exceptionable statements also which were brought to the EC’s attention.
During the campaign for the Karnataka election earlier this year, the Prime Minister had told the people to chant ‘Bajrang Bali Ki Jai’ while pressing the vote button. Modi and his ministers have routinely alleged that the Congress treated the states it ruled as “ATMs”. Is this a verified statement that they have repeatedly made? The EC has not found these promises and statements to be violations of the model code. There have also been complaints that even the election schedules are drawn up to suit the ruling party. The EC is a constitutional body charged with and empowered to conduct free and fair elections. If it appears to be partisan and loses credibility, India’s elections and democracy, too, will lose credibility.