EC finally asserts

Kashmir Times. Dated: 4/18/2019 1:45:47 PM

Action against 4 politicians for violating MCC is good but betrays prejudice; rules cannot be bent for the more powerful

The Election Commission finally cracking its whip and temporarily freezing the campaigning of four politicians charged with violating Model Code of Conduct (MCC) brazenly is a welcome move which was much needed to bring some civility and decorum in the election season. While UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party have been forbidden to campaign for 72 hours, BSP chief Mayawati and BJP minister Maneka Gandhi have been barred for 48 hours. This institutional response sets an example for many others tempted by loose talk, sexist bias and communalization of discourse in violation of the MCC and it is hoped that such measures will help maintain sanity as well as validity of the polls. By asserting himself against MCC violations, the EC has restored some credibility in the institution but the action appears to be only in hand-picked cases, arousing doubts whether it is only cosmetic and not meaningful. The suspicions are enhanced as the move comes close on the heels of over 60 former bureaucrats petitioning the president about the EC's perceived reluctance to deal with poll code violations. Expressing grave concern over the 'weak-kneed' conduct of the EC, the bureaucrats had rightly pointed out that "Any erosion in the people's confidence in the fairness of the ECI has very grave consequences for the future of our democracy." The letter essentially pointed out to misuse, abuse and blatant disregard of the Model Code of Conduct by the ruling party at the Centre and included allegations against none other than prime minister Narendra Modi for transgressing the MCC. While the EC has taken cognizance of the four leaders for their evident communal or sexist outburst, it is yet to be seen whether it has the ability to assert itself, without any prejudice, when the most powerful leaders of the country engage in similar violations. The case against Narendra Modi and his Man Friday Amit Shah is far more serious in view of not only the content and extent of the MCC violations they have been engaging in but also in view of the powers they wield in the political sphere as well as the government.
The list of MCC violations by Modi are endless. Ever since campaigning began, he has been seeking votes in the name of Pulwama attack and Balakot strikes. Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath even went a step further to call army 'Modiji ki Sena'. Such blatant misappropriation of the armed forces of the country for vote bank politics prompted 156 veterans including some former army chiefs to make a representation to the president, asking him to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas. The government responded simply by calling the letter 'fake' with two of the eight former army chiefs distancing from the letter and one revealing screen-shots of e-mails to counter their claims. This controversy may have enabled the BJP to get away but serious questions raised in the letter needed a much more serious engagement. Modi's ASAT strike was another classic example of abuse of his power as prime minister during election season to flaunt the so-called achievements of his government. He is also liberally seen to be using the Income Tax department to conduct raids against political adversaries of the BJP in non-BJP ruled states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. While the EC did ban the screening of a Modi biopic, the action was not only delayed, allowing the party to circulate the film promos widely, the constitutional institution was seen to be dragging its feet again over the launch of NaMO TV, a 24-hour DTH channel, devoted to wooing voters even though the channel not only violated the MCC but several other laws related to regulation. Modi and Shah have also shockingly been redefining citizenship opposed to the definition given by Indian constitution and proclaiming that only 'Hindus' across the globe as natural citizens of the country. By ignoring this long list of violations from the highest echelons of power and the delay in partially cracking down on offenders, the EC has taken a step, albeit a small one, in the right direction but restoring the credibility of the institution needs much more action, action that is not guided by bias.

 

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