People must gain confidence in the Election processes

Election Commission of India

Polling for the 7-phase elections for the 18th Parliament began on 19.4.2024, followed by polling on 26.4.2024 and 07.5.2024. Subsequent polling dates announced are 13.5.2024. 20.5.2024, 25.5.2024, and 01.6.2024, with results scheduled to be declared by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on 04.6.2024.

With three phases completed, there is a growing public perception that things are not going anywhere nearly as well as they have done in earlier general elections. Perhaps the most prominent difference is that the tone and content of campaign speeches have descended to a new low, and lack the dignity expected of politicians in the “mother of democracy”. Politicians trade invective and spout lies to win over voters, with an “ends justify the means” approach, to get themselves elected to seats in Parliament.

A significant portion of the content and tone of multiple campaign speeches are in obvious violation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), a set of guidelines prepared in keeping with Constitutional values, and accepted by all political parties without exception. There are also instances of violation of the Representative of the People’s Act and even some criminal laws.

The ECI is expected to keep campaigners and political parties in check, when they violate the MCC, by issuing Notice to the offender(s). In a new practice, the ECI has resorted to issuing Notice of MCC violation by an individual campaigner, to the president of the political party to which he/she belongs. More specifically, after several complaints to the ECI regarding violation of MCC by BJP’s star campaigner Mr.Narendra Modi, the ECI issued Notice of violation to the BJP party president, and also issued Notices to the Congress party president concerning MCC violation by Mr.Rahul Gandhi. While that may prima facie appear as ECI’s even-handedness, it is necessary to note that before this new practice was adopted, Notice of MCC violation had already been issued to several individual campaigning politicians.

This has inevitably led the public to sense a certain reluctance on the part of ECI to issue Notice(s) to the sitting PM, Mr.Modi. The ECI appears to have given a go-by to the accepted principle of persons holding public office needing to act “without fear or favour”, that is, in an equal and fair manner, in performing their public duties. It would be impolitic for this writer to go into the possible reason for such action by ECI, but quoting a portion of the constitutional Preamble should suffice, namely, “Equality of Status and of Opportunity”.

Coming on the top of two members of the ECI being appointed days before the election processes began, by a committee which excluded the CJI as a selecting member, the foregoing has inevitably led to people questioning whether the ongoing election processes are proceeding with fairness and even-handedness. In any case, the conduct of elections are a far cry from the days of the iconic CEC, Mr.T.N.Seshan.

Resultantly, a large number of concerned citizens have signed an Open Letter dated 10.5.2024 addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner, concerning the conduct of the Lok Sabha Elections 2024. The Open Letter elaborates on six points:

1. Voter turnout data must be in numbers

2. Discrepancies in 2019 voter data

3. Failure to combat hate speech during elections

4. Failure to take action against surrogate ads

5. Failure to take equal and impartial action against parties

6. Failure to stop campaigning violations

The Open Letter ends with the following six demands:

1. Ensure that Mr.Modi who is a star campaigner for BJP is banned from campaigning for 96 hours

2. Ensure that an enquiry is conducted into candidates being pressured to withdraw/ being offered incentives to withdraw in Surat, Indore, Gandhinagar, and elsewhere

3. Immediately declare the number of votes polled in all the three phases conducted so far

4. Explain conclusively the discrepancies in votes polled and counted in 2019

5. Ensure that action is taken against all parties for MCC violations

6. Take immediate action against surrogate ads by political parties

Along with peaceful public demonstrations in several cities across the country, a section of the public has also participated in sending hundreds of post-cards addressed to the ECI on 11.5.2024, expressing their individual views concerning the conduct of the ongoing elections, which have reached the half-way mark.

The attached short video is this writer’s urgent request to the Hon’ble Members of the ECI, ending with the earnest plea to perform their onerous duties without fear or favour.

S.G.Vombatkere retired in 1996 from service in the Indian Army, in the rank of Major General.

CONTACT DETAILS: Email: <[email protected]>

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