As the historic elections for the 17th Lok Sabha constitution began on April 11, the focus has shifted on the functioning of the Election Commission in the next six weeks till the counting of the votes on May 23. The contending parties will make claims and counterclaims during this period and for ensuring fair and impartial polling, it is the EC who is the supreme authority during this crucial period. The sad part is that the present EC members have failed in discharging their responsibility as per the Constitution. Therein lies the danger to the Indian democracy.
That the Election Commission is continuously making flip flops and it is facing a credibility crisis, are now known facts. The latest salvo has been fired by a group of most distinguished bureaucrats in a letter to the President of India in which they have alleged that the Model Code of Conduct has been violated by the senior ruling party leaders consistently and the present EC has failed to take action. As a result, the BJP leaders, especially the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP president Amit Shah have been continuously making reference of the army action and the airstrike in their speeches and urging the people to vote for them since only they could teach Pakistan a lesson.
The BJP leaders are regularly taking a Hindu majoritarian position and blaming the Congress for betraying the Hindus.PM himself crossed all limits in accusing Rahul Gandhi of choosing Wayanad constituency because it has a majority Muslim population. All these are against the existing MCC but the Election Commission has not got the guts to reprimand the PM and the BJP President for their highly communal speeches.
The civil servants in their letter aptly expressed the present situation when they said "We write to express our deep anguish that the ECI is suffering from a crisis of credibility today. The ECI's independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are perceived to be compromised today, thereby endangering the integrity of the electoral process which is the very foundation of Indian democracy."
The civil servants said they were distressed to note the "misuse, abuse and blatant disregard" of the MCC by the ruling party at the Centre and the ECI's "pusillanimity" in coming down with a heavy hand on these violations.
Referring to the ECI's clean cheat to Prime Minister's public announcement on March 27 about the successful launch of India's first anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), they said that parading the achievements of a government after the announcement of elections was tantamount to a "serious breach of propriety". "The ECI's decision does not stand up to the standards of impartiality expected of it," they said.
Over the controversy surrounding release of a biopic on the Prime Minister, the group opined that it represents a backdoor effort to garner free publicity for a political person (and his party). "If this biopic is released even while the election process is ongoing, we contend that the entire expenses on the production, distribution and publicity of the biopic should be debited to the election expenses of Narendra Modi," the group said. However, the EC finally ruled that the biopic will be released only after the elections.
The group also accused the ECI of acting with "lethargy" in respect of the NaMo TV channel and transfer of three top police officers and the Chief Secretary in Andhra Pradesh and four top police officers in West Bengal.
"No such steps have been taken in Tamil Nadu, where the present Director General of Police (DGP) is reportedly under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Gutkha scam case and there have been repeated appeals by the Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu seeking his removal from that post," they said.
Raising concerns over the Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh's statement supporting Modi, the group demanded his removal from the post. They also demanded strong action against Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi for their "Modi Ki Sena" remarks and accused the ECI of contenting itself in the cases with a mild reprimand.
"We certainly hope and pray that such mild responses do not embolden others to violate the MCC and weaken the institutions that support our democracy," they said in the letter.
The group also alleged that Modi made "divisive speeches" during his election rallies in Maharashtra and urged the poll body to take appropriate strict action to discourage all "incendiary" speeches.
Expressing their "deep concern" about the "weak-kneed" conduct of the poll body, the group said any erosion in the people's confidence in the fairness of the ECI has very grave consequences for the future of our democracy.
They appealed the President that the ECI to conduct itself in a manner where its independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency was not questioned and to firmly exercise the extensive mandate given to it under Article 324 of the Constitution to ensure that the Indian voter is able to exercise her/his franchise without fear or favour.
The Election Commission is on trial during the next six weeks. The EC is the supreme authority for conducting elections, but if it takes any partial position to the present power elites, that will be a big affront to the Indian democracy. If that happens, the very essence of the people’s mandate will be lost. The EC members who are also senior bureaucrats, must uphold the banners of impartial functioning and they must ensure the MCC will be applicable to one and all, irrespective of the powers they wield.