EC needs to grow teeth and learn to bite offenders
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he nation is in the midst of the most acrimonious general election ever. As the political discourse plummets to depths we always feared, but hoped it wouldn’t, the role of the election watchdog, the Election Commission, assumes a role that is far more critical than ever before.
The poll panel is supposed to keep errant politicos in check and ensure none trifles with its diktat, all focused towards the ultimate aim of conducting elections that are free and fair. Unfortunately, however, it seems to be failing.Just look at some of the violations. Maratha strongman and Union cabinet minister Sharad Pawar asked his followers to vote, wipe off the indelible ink immediately and come back to vote again. He was openly extolling them to indulge in bogus voting. And what did the EC do? Issued him a ‘strong’ warning never to do so again. Pawar must have cringed in fear at the warning, I am sure!
And he is not the only one. Violations, some genuine, some make-believe and some trivial, are taking place almost daily. Former Union minister and now Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat announced some monetary grant after the model code of conduct came into effect. And an SP leader actually extolled his followers not to worry about EC norms and that he would ensure they are not charged by the police. And then there is Salman Khurshid.
The nation’s foreign minister is actually almost a serial offender. The minister is in the news again for violation of the code a couple of days ago, but he is used to it. He made some totally out-of-turn quota announcements during UP elections in February 2012, and when EC censured him, repeated it and dared EC to take action. I had written a piece on it then – What would Seshan do if faced with Salman? Almost everybody has started taking EC for granted and it is dangerous for our democracy. And I would blame the poll panel itself for the state it finds itself in – toothless, and as a consequence, helpless! Seems all the hard work that some of the earlier ECs had done is increasingly being withered away. And the result is that politicos are getting worse.
Amid all this, one would really hope at least the body entrusted with the job of ensuring all is fair, does its job well. The EC, for its own good, and most certainly for the good of our democracy, has to start taking action. It has to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that it means business. More than a decade ago, the EC under Seshan said it would videograph every election meeting.
The EC genuinely needs to get back to the primacy it enjoyed a decade ago, the time when it was taken seriously, the time when politicos knew it would not merely bark, but bite as well.