EC powers need to be cut to ensure free, unhindered poll campaign
By Shivaji Sarkar
The Election Commission is depoliticising the election process. It is sanitising campaigning, empowering police to harass common men and giving quixotic orders like covering statues.
Political parties should consider this as serious threat to the democratic process. It also raises the oft repeated question why the EC should be headed by bureaucrats, who have an aversion for political process.
Since the days of TN Seshan, the EC is functioning as if the political parties and the campaigning processes are its enemies.
Its autocratic functioning and Tughlaqi orders have given enormous powers to the police to harass anybody and everybody without a reason. In UP, the police and the administration have left all other jobs to “crack” the so-called “black” money and seize it.
It has announced “capturing” of Rs 35 crore so far in the State. Ghaziabad alone has contributed Rs 14 crore. Business and bank ATMs have come to a close. The traders have announced that if the police did not stop its illegal activities they would organise Statewide strike.
The EC orders have possibly never been so religiously followed by the police. It is harassing every businessman, traders and even banks to show its cash trophies.
Business in the State functions on cash transaction in the State. The police know it but do not recognise the fact for obvious reasons. The “seizures” in collusion with the income-tax officials is creating new records.
Businessmen have their problems. The cash trail does not have records. So the “seizures” look legally correct though the reasons given are doubtful.
The police have taken this as an opportunity. A Noida-based petrol pump owner accused the Noida police of raiding his business premises in Sector 63 and robbing him off Rs 7 lakh. Despite showing proof of the transactions and that the money was being taken for deposit to the bank, the police did not return the money.
“Even when we have all the papers to prove that the money is not being misused, the police do not listen to us”, said another businessman Rupesh, who was detained by the police.
The EC has given orders to seize all cash movements beyond Rs 2.5 lakh. Who has given EC such draconian powers? And is all money that is on the move is only meant for elections? Are those who give funds for polls so naive as to hand the money to the EC?
Possibly a wise EC does not know of this phenomenon.
It calls for curbing the powers of EC. Such draconian powers are a blot on democracy. The EC must be shorn of its role of moral policing.
The first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru used to say that elections are occasions for educating people. The EC is depriving the people of this opportunity by sanitising the campaigning process.
Earlier, elections were celebrations. Buntings, party flags and other paraphernalia used to make these lively events. Candidates’ names were known though posters, wall writings, leaflets and pamphlets. Now every items is on the EC’s banned list.
One party used to virulently criticise policies and functioning of rivals. Now that is also in EC’s banned list.
It is having its impact on the poll process. Open discussion necessary for a fair poll, has been shut. The EC instead of doing its basic duty of conducting the polls is busy in functioning as the censor. That is not the role of an EC.
People are also wondering what good has been achieved by covering statues of UP Chief Minister Mayawati or her elephants. The State has lost Rs 1 crore for covering these massive statues. The move has given wider publicity to Mayawati than her extravaganza. The EC’s stated move and the purpose has been lost.
Conversely many are asking whether EC has done deliberately to help Mayawati get a wide coverage through the media. Is it not a way of campaigning by the EC itself?
The rationale for staggering the elections to seven phases also looks shady. Normally, elections used to be held two or three phases at the most. Nominations were done simultaneously. Now the process of staggered nominations cause more problem for political parties and their functioneries.
The EC has terrorised political parties so much on the bogey of having cleansing the process that the parties find it difficult to oppose the Tughalqi functioning.
It is time for having a relook. The political parties need to discuss the functioning of the EC and set its parameters. An extra-powerful EC should be considered as a threat. Apart it must not have powers to sanitise the poll process. It is against the basic rights of the people to know their candidates. Let us celebrate the elections as people used to do till the advent of Seshan.
A debate has to begin and the EC has to know not to overdo. More it has tried to sanitise the poll process, more the candidates are being forced to reach the voters. The purpose has been lost.
An open discussion among political parties and with the people is the need of the hour. In democracy, no organisation should be allowed be larger than life.
Why should EC be manned by retired bureaucrats? They may be there but not as election commissioners. Some political persons from different political parties should be given the task to function as election commissioners. Election is a political process and politicians understand that better.
Bureuacratising political and constitutional institutions is against the basic tenets of democracy. The political parties have to restore that process and ensure a vibrant election process where discussions and campaigning could be held in a free atmosphere. A delay in this process may not be in the interest of the nation. Let us do it fast.