Archive for the ‘Election Commission’ Category
The BJP swept the February-March, 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The instant reaction of BSP supremo Mayawati to her party’s miserable performance in Uttar Pradesh was that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) were manipulated. Soon the Samajwadi Party and AAP leaders joined Mayawati’s outcry. Even some Congress leaders in Uttarakhand also started talking about EVM manipulation. Meanwhile, a discussion on the fragmentation of non-BJP votes in Uttar Pradesh had also started (the BJP got so many seats with a vote share of less than 40 per cent while the combined vote share of BSP and SP was over 44 per cent plus six per cent of the Congress share).
The subject of EVM manipulation has been cropping up almost from the time EVMs were introduced. A sort of campaign on this issue was launched by then Madhya Pradesh Congress President Suresh Pachouri after the 2008 Assembly elections which had returned BJP’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the second term. A distraught Pachouri had threatened to expose EVM manipulations with the help of his “friends in the UK and the US”.
Before Pachouri could carry out his threat, Lal Krishna Advani jumped in the fray after the BJP lost the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and his dream of becoming the Prime Minister was shattered. He demanded discontinuation of EVMs and going back to the printed ballot papers. Advani’s demand was supported by the leaders of various parties like the AIADMK, CPI (M), Janata Dal (S) and the Lok Janshakti Party. Advani had the support of a bureaucrat also. Former Delhi chief secretary Omesh Saigal had surfaced to claim that he knew a secret code in the EVM, through which the machine could be programmed to transfer every fifth vote to a particular candidate. Petitions were filed in courts on the fallibility of EVMs, one of the most vocal petitioners being BJP’s Kirit Somaiya.
There was so much noise in the country that the Election Commission felt it had to do something. In August 2009, the Commission randomly obtained 100 EVMs from 10 States (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh). The Commission invited political leaders, petitioners and other critics of EVMs and also made the media announcement that the EVMs would be kept in the Commission office for a specified period and anyone could come and show how these machines could be manipulated. No one did. The EVM bogey, though, has one merit. It keeps occupied the politicians who have been defeated in the elections and have nothing else to do at the moment.
Election Commission has issued notice to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for allegedly asking the voters of poll-bound Goa to take money from leaders of other parties but vote for BJP. Earlier a similar complaint was made against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Election Commission had never had sharp teeth. But T N Seshan, as Chief Election Commissioner, had converted Election Commission into a frightening scarecrow. Politicians and bureaucrats were then taking extra care to ensure that they did not transgress the Model Code of Conduct. Today Election Commission does not even scare the miscreants.
Decency and decorum in election campaigns are fast becoming part of history. Campaigners seem to be vying with each other to show their baser side in public speeches. During Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, Election Commission receives thousands of complaints of violation of Model Code of Conduct by candidates or other party leaders, some of the complaints being pretty serious. One does not recall if Election Commission has taken any serious action against the culprits.
There are certain laws giving some powers to Election Commission, but these are not enough. More importantly, Election Commission does not have its own workforce to enforce its orders even if it wants to take stern action in a case. It has to depend on the officers and employees of State and Central governments for carrying out its orders. They are put under the Election Commission during the operation of the Model Code of Conduct. After that they are at the mercy of their political bosses in the State or at the Centre.
There have been instances of some officers following Election Commission directives honestly and, thereby, displeasing the ruling party in the State. Such officers are harassed by the government of the State as soon as the period of Model Code of Conduct is over. On the other hand, the officers who please the political bosses in the State by making a mockery of the Election Commission guidelines are subsequently rewarded. Election Commission cannot do anything in either case.
Only a cynic can think of following Election Commission guidelines honestly if these do not suit the partisan interests of the ruling party in the State.