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Biased against BJP

Biased against BJP

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: March 25, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/164914/Biased-against-BJP.html

Election Commission shows true colours

The Election Commission of India clearly transgressed its jurisdiction and went well beyond its constitutionally mandated remit while asking the BJP not to field Mr Varun Gandhi as its candidate for the Lok Sabha election. Given this simple fact, it is not surprising that the BJP should have rejected the Election Commission's not-so-innocent 'suggestion'; not to have done so would have been disastrous for the party, demoralising for its cadre and set a dangerous precedent for curtailing the independence of political parties. Three points need to be stressed while explaining why Mr Gandhi's alleged utterances at public meetings do not qualify for the Election Commission's aggressive intervention and its attempt to arm-twist the BJP into dumping its candidate for Pilibhit constituency in Uttar Pradesh. First, Mr Gandhi is yet to file his nomination papers, which means the public meetings addressed by him cannot be treated as election campaign rallies that are governed by the Election Commission's 'model code of conduct'. Second, the Election Commission should not allow its judgement to be clouded by media hype. Nirvachan Sadan cannot start issuing notices and demanding punitive action against individuals just because a section of the media decides to play judge and jury, as it has done in this particular instance. Mr Gandhi has been painted by some newspapers and news channels in the bleakest of colours without being given an opportunity to defend himself. Sadly, the Election Commission has chosen to legitimise this trial by media by acting on the basis of second hand information. Third, If Mr Gandhi has indeed violated any law of the land, it is for the courts to decide whether he is actually guilty of the charges. The Election Commission cannot arrogate to itself the role and responsibility of the judiciary.

But this is not merely about Mr Gandhi's alleged offence. It is about the Election Commission gradually expanding its powers without bothering about whether its activism is beginning to fetch diminishing returns. The Election Commission's job is to ensure the conduct of free and fair polls. What we have been witnessing is the emergence of a power-hungry Election Commission which appears to get vicarious pleasure out of browbeating petty officials, senior bureaucrats and politicians. Not satisfied with getting officials transferred and harassing politicians, the Election Commission has virtually created a situation whereby governance comes to a halt for the entire duration of polls. Such is the fear psychosis that bureaucrats refuse to clear files or take decisions; given the lethargy that afflicts officialdom, election season only makes matters worse, robbing Government - both at the Centre and in the States - of all authority. The mess is further compounded by the Election Commission's political biases: Had Nirvachan Sadan been truly autonomous, a notice would have been issued to the Congress for its communal campaign in Chandigarh where a senior leader of the party openly sought Muslim votes in the name of shari'ah. The gulf that separates the pretended morality of the Election Commission and its deeds gives the lie to its intentions. In Mr Gandhi's case, the intention was clearly to hobble the BJP, not to ensure free and fair polling in Pilibhit.


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