ECI’s Model Code of Conduct- Exempted for the influential, enforced for the disadvantaged

chenchu community visakhapatnam


Shri Rajiv Kumar

Chief Election Commissioner


Shri A C Pandey

Election Commissioner


Shri A Goel

Election Commissioner


Dear S/Shri Rajiv Kumar/ Pandey and Goel,

I write this letter to highlight the Commission’s double standards in applying the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), one for the influential and another for the disadvantaged.

The migrant Chenchus of Visakhapatnam:

The Chenchu community is recognised as a “Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group” (PVTG), who have special rights under the Constitution and are entitled to basic amenities such as food security, shelter and education.

There are about 60 migrant Chenchu families living in an unliveable slum in the heart of Visakhapatnam city, uprooted by the local municipality more than five years ago, with the promise that pucca houses would be built at that very same location for rehabilitating them.

The promised houses became a mirage for years. After inordinate bureaucratic delays, they are at last ready.

The Chenchus led by their patriarch, Ramulu, were forced to run from pillar to post to get those houses, which were meant for them, but there were interlopers, benami claimants, mostly political brokers, trying to grab those very same houses. Ramulu and his Chenchu compatriots never gave up hope, as they had no other alternative. They continuously kept the authorities under pressure, with help from a few helpful NGOs.

Finally, the municipal authorities, threatened with cases to be filed against them under the Prevention of Atrocities against the STs Act, and threatened with exposing them for human rights violations committed against the Chenchus on the eve of the “Amrit Kal” G-20 meetings here, have started acting and almost got ready with house allotment orders for the desperate Chenchus but, the golden alibi of the ECI’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC) came in handy on the eve of the ensuing MLC elections to the Graduates Constituency for this region, for the local authorities to prolong the trauma of the Chenchus. As a result, the hapless Chenchus are forced to wait indefinitely, once again, not in a position to understand how the ECI’s MCC has anything to do with their shelter, for which they have had to fight for so long.

Two days ago, the Chenchu patriarch’s health became critical and he was delirious. But, his last words before his demise were “when are we moving into pucca houses?” Ramulu will never know that it is the exalted office of the Delhi-based ECI that has, in the name of upholding the integrity of the MLC election, prohibited the Chenchus from moving into houses, that should have belonged to them long ago.

Considering that only graduates can elect an MLC and considering that Chenchus, who are subject to social discrimination for ages, will take a long time to become graduates, is it not a laughable matter that ECI’s MCC should come in handy to delay house allotment to them? How can they ever influence MLC elections?

How can a caste-based State Corporation Chairman contest MLC elections?

Coming to ECI’s double standards, compare this with my letter dated 7-3-2023 addressed to you, questioning the eligibility of the present Chairman of the AP Brahmin Welfare Corporation, continuing in office at the pleasure of the Chief Minister, contesting as a candidate to the same MLC election, which his caste-based Corporation could readily influence. There has been a deafening silence on your part to exercise application of mind and act on my letter.

The Union Home Minister’s reported divisive statement on the eve of Gujarat Assembly elections:

Compare this once again with my letters dated 26th and 28th of November, 2022, on the eve of the Gujarat Assembly elections, in which I had asked the ECI to look into a possible violation of the MCC by the Union Home Minister, on the basis a reported divisive statement made by him. ECI not only remained silent on my complaint but also kept me in the dark about the order, if any, passed by it, probably fearing that I would contest it, if the trivial grounds on which it failed to act, became public!

Why did the Commission defer enforcement of the MCC, selectively for Gujarat elections?

There is yet another case of how the Commission had conducted itself in a manner that could readily be questioned.

I had to approach Rashtrapatiji, vide my letter dated 5-11-2022, questioning the ECI’s decision to defer announcement of the Gujarat Assembly elections, which also meant deferment of the MCC (in contrast, the Himachal elections scheduled for the same period were announced earlier), which enabled the ruling political party to hold rallies and inaugurations to gain undue political advantage, including a hasty inauguration of the Morbi bridge that caused an immense human tragedy. I am not sure whether the Commission can ever provide a satisfactory answer to my letter in this respect.

ECI should stand committed to the Constitution and its values:

The Commission seems to have double standards in the matter of enforcing the MCC, one to exempt the influential and allow them to benefit and another to enforce it and punish the disadvantaged!

I request each one of you to ponder over the contents of this letter, the need for enforcing the MCC where it is necessary and exempting it where it affects the disadvantaged.

An institution like yours, that the Constitution has created for a laudable purpose, should have a conscience of its own, an identity that stands for the Constitution.

Act quickly for the Chenchus in Visakhapatnam:

Keeping these concerns of mine in view, I would request you to issue an emergent order today, preferably telephonic, to the Chief Electoral Officer of AP and the local municipal authorities to allow the 60 odd Chenchu families to occupy the houses long meant for them, before the scheduled date (13-3-2023) of voting. At least that will ensure the Chenchu patriarch’s soul to rest in peace!

If you do so, I believe you would have restored some semblance of public trust in the concept of a Model Code of Conduct and in the role of the Commission itself!

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to Government of India


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