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Summer simmer

Summer simmer

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 3, 2006
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/archive_full_story.php?content_id=88847

Introduction: If Left Front has nothing to hide, it'll also have nothing to fear from EC's pre-poll exertions

India will soon be back in campaign mode. As summer rolls in, states as far apart and disparate as Assam, Kerala, Pondicherry, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu will prepare for their tryst with the voting machine. Sweltering times are pre-ordained, and not entirely because of the weather. Each state will witness keen, even fractious, contests. The challenge as always will lie in achieving a credible verdict which reflects as accurately as possible the people's will.

It is this imperative that makes the EC's pre-election exertions so important. This election will see a renewed emphasis on transparency, through the deployment of poll observers and security personnel, identity cards, and videography. These measures have created a degree of angst in some quarters, most notably in Writers' Building. The Left Front, which has ruled West Bengal since 1977, suspects a conspiracy here - a coup attempt against its unsullied suzerainty staged by the babus of Nirvachan Sadan. The point is that if the Left Front has nothing to hide, it will also have nothing to fear from the EC's scrupulousness. A five-phase election in the state may be a tremendous inconvenience, but if the ground realities after careful assessment demand it, why must the Left Front protest? Ditto, the review of poll rolls. After all, the Left Front's credibility is at stake when accusations of "scientific rigging" abound, as they have all these years.

In fact electoral transparency goes beyond the mere anxieties of any one political party. If Indian democracy is credible today - and judging by the soundbites emanating from the Manmohan-Bush meeting, this is a view that has international acceptance - it is because some thought, care and refining have gone into protecting the electoral process. If October 2002 election in Jammu and Kashmir, which saw the National Conference voted out after being in power for two decades, was evidence of this; so was Nitish Kumar's famous victory in Bihar last November, after 15 years of Lalu-Rabri rule. Both elections were hailed widely as among the fairest the two states have ever seen. The electoral process in West Bengal now awaits a similar endorsement, never mind who wins.

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