Editorial: Nearly All Over Bar The Shouting In Polls 2024

Editorial: Nearly All Over Bar The Shouting In Polls 2024

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Sunday, May 26, 2024, 10:38 PM IST
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Representational Image | File

At long last we are headed for the denouement of the unusually extended poll schedule stretching over six weeks. That the summer heat was not the best of times to stage what is euphemistically the greatest festival of democracy too is universally acknowledged. With temperatures hovering well over 45 degrees in parts of the country political workers and voters alike had to brave extreme heat and fears of dehydration. It is to the credit of the Election Commission that along with food for the tens of thousands conducting the poll operations it thoughtfully provided them cold drinks of the healthy kind from the State-owned Mother Dairy. Most thoughtfully, in the national capital the EC had arranged battery-driven rickshaws in residential colonies to ferry the elderly voters home free of charge. These little gestures lend the institutions of the State a humane face. A happy relationship between the State and the citizen on cordial terms is a big plus for imparting purpose and meaning to the democratic system. Unfortunately, various political parties in the poll fray adopted a hostile attitude not only towards one another but against the EC itself. Suspicion and distrust animated the Opposition actions against the EC. At the drop of a hat, it went to the Supreme Court seeking intervention against the poll body, often on baseless suspicion. The NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, willingly played into the hands of some professional agitators for whom filing PILs had become a tool for personal promotion. The apex court did well last week to reject the plea for the EC to be directed to release booth-wise polling data. Next, it could well seek mohalla and gali-wise polling. Doubtless, the institution of PIL has in the past facilitated some urgently needed reforms but now PILs are mostly abused for grand-standing and even for patently ulterior purposes such as wading into corporate rivalries and vendettas. The onus is on the entire political class to treat the EC with due respect and attention in the larger interest of democracy. Undermining the referee’s authority for purely partisan gains would eventually pelt the system of which we as a nation ought to be rightly proud. Conducting a poll exercise with over 950 million voters spread over the length and breadth of the vast country is a huge organisational challenge. It redounds to its credit that by and large it has been able to conduct an incident-free exercise. No other democratic country in the world is called upon to periodically organize the polls at such a mammoth scale. Probably, the main cause for an extended six-week poll lay in the vastness of the electoral exercise. So, two cheers for the EC for having gone through the six phases in an orderly manner without a major hiccup. We will save the third cheer for when the last vote is counted and the winners and losers declared on June 4.

Meanwhile, various political parties in the fray were far from being a picture of restraint and sobriety all through the campaign. Not only did the Opposition abuse the EC, questioning its fairness, they levied one unsubstantiated charge or the other against the prime minister and his party. On his part, Modi himself often let his guard down, speaking in a language which could do with some restraint in keeping with the dignity of the prime ministerial office. Tit-for-tat abuse and name-calling was the staple of the campaign. Unlike in the earlier elections, parties did not concentrate on door-to-door contacts, relying on WhatsApp groups and other social media to disseminate their message. In the information age, You Tube influencers played a major role in reaching out to the voters on behalf of rival parties. Digital monetisation spurted thanks to the ubiquitous presence of television and smart phones. Money power, which was demonstrably present till the advent of T N Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner, was not missing from this poll, though it was driven underground due to the stringent vigil kept by the EC. Nor was the “satta bazaar” absent from poll-related gossip. Like the share markets, satta bazaar too fluctuated up and down, its latest guesstimate after the six rounds giving the BJP a clear majority. Per force for official confirmation we will have to wait till June 4. Till then tens of millions of voters can happily indulge in the nation’s favourite pastime — that is, gossip.

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