EC a paper tiger
The Election Commission is a paper tiger. Less it howls the better. It has constitutional status, may be some moral authority but nothing beyond that. Its clamour for more power – usually a bureaucrat’s ambition – is not in the interest of this democracy.
It must understand why it has been given a constitutional status. It is not for the policing or autocratic functioning. The sole purpose is to ensure authority to conduct elections in a free and fair manner. The EC was not designed to become a guardian of the democracy but an efficient servant, who would function with loyalty to elect a pro-people regime.
It was also not designed to become an organisation to brand the politicians with a black brush. Nor it was expected to censor the campaigning process.
It is unfortunate that the EC has been trying to act bigger than the democracy and treats politicians with least respect. When it does so, it loses its own respect and authority.
The election is a process of free discussion. It is the process of how a political party, a candidate and their representatives present themselves. It is for the voter to assess them on their conviction.
In the case of whether Minister for Law Salman Khurshid, Beni Prasad Verma on their assurance on Muslim quota or listening to complaints on construction of Ram Mandir, what the EC has been trying to do is choke the voice of the campaigners.
Khurshid or Verma definitely did not say that was not partisan or raised communal feelings. It is despicable. But political parties have a right to complain, take judicial action or represent to the President. It is difficult to understand why they should plead to the EC on the so-called model code of conduct.
The code is fine to the extent elections could be held peacefully and free and fair manner. Beyond that the EC should not have any authority. In reality, the Khurshid case has demonstrated that it does not have it either. It virtually bit the dust on the issue and tried to save its skin by declaring its closure.
The political parties also need to ask the EC why it should try to censor statements or tell campaigners what to speak or not. Today the nation knows what Khurshid and his close ones are up to. A nation that prides itself in free and fair speech cannot allow a bureaucratic organisation to act prejudicial to it. The EC had actually been doing that.
This act of EC is a clear violation of the mandate it has been bestowed with. A free and fair election is not possible if the voters do not know the mind of the candidates or their representatives.
It was amoral to tear a paper with names of party top leaders or poll promises of rival parties. Can the EC act on such misdemeanour? The EC neither has the power nor should it have to act in such situations. Such public behaviour helps the voter know his would be rulers.
The EC has made the election process too sanitised. It has made it difficult to propagate candidature. Its foolhardy instructions have made elections more expensive for the candidates. Their real campaigning time has increased and goes beyond the stipulated campaign period. Many invest tons several months ahead of the announcement of the polls.
The EC in such cases has little to do but act ostrich like.
A vibrant democracy needs a vibrant election process as it was prevalent till early 1990s. It is not wise to keep a check on that process.
Festoons, banners, badges, vociferous street corner meetings and sometimes blaring music were part of the involvement process not only of the voters but also of would be voters – the children and students. The EC has censored it all depriving the people of an opportunity to know their candidates, their parties and strength of the process.
The EC’s wielding of the stick has ushered in a process of whisper campaigning so that the expenses could be hidden. Is not the EC asking candidate to be less honest?
The political parties too should realise that creating a monster out of an EC may be counter—productive. They should not try to settle score among themselves through the EC.
The EC in many cases could not control the activities of the returning officers. It is an open secret that how a returning officer in critical cases can tilt the balance. The EC has to act more effectively in such cases. It acts but often in a softer manner as it involves their tribe.
Let the country hold an open discussion and debate the limitations of EC. It also needs to unshackle the electioneering process lest in future the process of discussion is put to a complete rest. The EC has limited functions and should not be too big for its boots. It must not be allowed to sanitise the political process. The EC should know it is not a tiger of any sort.