'Election panel has failed us'

'Election panel has failed us'

The Election Commission of India office building in New Delhi. Reuters

Five phases of this long drawn-out, utterly indecent election will be over by the end of the day on Monday. And the Supreme Court is still reminding the Election Commission (EC) to decide on the complaints of violations of the model code of conduct (MCC) by the prime minister. By now, with six clean chits to the PM, it is quite clear that the EC is compromised. It will not act until it is forced to, and then only to let the PM off on almost any ground it can find.

The signal was clear from the beginning. When Modi came on TV to announce the anti-satellite weapon test, the EC found a technicality to rule that it was not a violation of the poll code: Modi had used a private broadcaster, and not the official Doordarshan, to boast to the nation!

“Don’t use armed forces to seek votes,” the EC sent out a circular to political parties, after the PM and the BJP put up posters of the Pulwama martyrs and Wg Cdr Abhinandan, etc., at their rallies and sought votes in their names; don’t use religion to seek votes, the poll code says. But Modi has gone on doing exactly these. So long as he can cleverly do his dog whistle politics, the EC will pretend it did not hear anything.

Sixty-six retired bureaucrats wrote to the President requesting him to ensure that the EC performs its duty without fear or favour. Military veterans wrote to the President to ensure that the armed forces are not exploited for votes. But the poll code of conduct is dead, the Representation of the People Act doesn’t matter. And NaMo TV drones on.
What message has CEC Sunil Arora sent down to the officials on the ground trying to enforce the model code of conduct and run a free and fair election?

The only job — but the most crucial one for our democracy — the EC is tasked with is ensuring free and fair elections. Ensuring that the ruling party and its leaders and the prime minister do not ride roughshod over the code of conduct and over the EC is essential to do that job. Regardless of what the outcome of the elections will be, the Election Commission of Sunil Arora has failed to do so.

The EC routinely transfers officials in the states to ensure a free and fair election. It is perhaps time to do the same at the top of the Election Commission itself. We may yet be able to salvage the democratic process by having a committee of former chief election commissioners oversee the process. Otherwise, our democracy may well be facing a “qatl ki raat”