Fearless Talk: Let Us Do Away With Elections Altogether

Fearless Talk: Let Us Do Away With Elections Altogether

Elections can be said to be fair when on the one hand, the contesting candidates and political parties do not indulge in unfair means and follow the model code of conduct and on the other hand the Election Commission of India ensures that it carries out its task of holding the elections in a fair manner and treats all political parties and candidates equally

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Sunday, April 28, 2024, 07:49 PM IST
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Representative Image | Pixabay

The time has come for India to scrap elections and save the crores of rupees spent on elections that have become a farce.

There has been unfairness in elections from the time of the first general election held in 1952. Elections can be said to be fair when on the one hand, the contesting candidates and political parties do not indulge in unfair means and follow the model code of conduct and on the other hand the Election Commission of India ensures that it carries out its task of holding the elections in a fair manner and treats all political parties and candidates equally.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is not only responsible for holding elections in a fair manner, but also functions as a quasi-judicial body. The organisation and its commissioners are Constitutional authorities and the officials need to understand the responsibility bestowed upon them by the Constitution and the trust of the people, they are supposed to win by their acts.

During the first few general elections there were instances of voters being influenced with money, small gifts, liquor and even provision of transport to the polling booth and back; all this either by the candidate or the political party.

Booth capturing and stealing of ballot boxes, prevention of voters from exercising their right to vote were common acts till 1980s. Though small efforts were made by various Election Commissioners, the real and drastic change was introduced by T N Seshan, to ensure fairness in the elections and to bring about as much of a level playing field as possible.

Seshan was appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner of India by Prime Minister Chandrashekhar. By the time of his appointment to the Constitutional post, he had won the reputation of being honest and outspoken.

A reference to his frankness is found in his autobiography, Through the Broken Glass, published four years after his demise. He writes, “The very next day (the day after a young man had fired a shot at Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi at Rajghat), I was summoned by the PM. When I went to see him, the place was naturally swarming with policemen. ‘Seshan, I would like you to make a full inquiry into yesterday’s incident at Rajghat and submit the report to me,’ Rajiv said.

“Thinking that the responsibility was rather unusual and heavy, I said that I had never handled any job pertaining to security and someone else may be more suited to the task.
‘You speak frankly. You do not fear anyone. Because of these qualities, I am giving you this job,’ Rajiv said.”

It was probably that quality which earned him the coveted post of Chief Election Commissioner of India. Under the present regime, even in his wildest dreams, Seshan could not have thought of being appointed to that post.

When the current government rejected the suggestion of the Supreme Court of India that a panel, with the Chief Justice of India as a member, be entrusted to appoint the Election Commissioners, it was clear that the government does not wish to have individuals with even a fraction of the righteousness, dedication to the work entrusted and integrity, essential to occupy the posts; and surely not someone, who would dare to take action against any candidate of the ruling alliance, with no question of action against the star campaigners or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for violation of the Model Code of Conduct, popularised by Seshan.

It would be too much to expect Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and his two colleagues to read Seshan’s autobiography, but they should at least go through the case studies of the various actions taken by Seshan to ensure fair elections. But the Chief Election Commissioner may not have the time to do so, as he is busy penning couplets in Urdu to impress the people at large, carried to the masses by the media, which does not dare to question him on his lapses, which are countless.

Seshan was clear that there would be no bribing or intimidating voters, no distribution of liquor during the elections, no use of official machinery for campaigning, no appealing to voters' caste or communal feelings, no use of religious places for campaigns and no use of loudspeakers without prior written permission.

It is clear from the acts of omission and commission of Kumar and his colleagues, that the entire ECI is pro-Modi and his party. Arun Govil, who had played the role of Lord Ram, in Ramayan, a TV serial and now a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate, has been carrying am image of Lord Ram during his campaigning, yet the ECI, which should have taken suo moto action against Govil, failed to act on the numerous complaints it has received against him.

Several leaders of the BJP, especially Modi and Amit Shah, have been constantly making speeches on communal lines and the complaints against them by the Congress and other parties, have not been acted upon. The Congress has also complained to the ECI pointing out how Modi has been attributing statements to the Congress and its leaders, stating that they are in the Congress manifesto, though it is to the contrary. Yet, the ECI has not even served a notice to either BJP or Modi.

On the other hand, the Shiv Sena (Thackeray) has been ordered to delete the words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Jai Bhavani’ from their campaign song, as the use of the words amounts to use of religion and violates the Model Code of Conduct!

The manner in which the BJP candidate in Surat was declared unopposed is a matter of concern. Those swearing in the name of Lord Ram should follow the righteous path that he is known for. The goings-on have turned the elections into a farce. It is expected that the Supreme Court would intervene suo moto and direct the ECI to carry out its duties according to law.

Better still would be to scrap elections.

The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi

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