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May there be polls

May there be polls

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: February 28, 2008
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story/277809.html

Introduction: Democratic norms and the law make hollow excuses for postponing Karnataka elections

Democracy is animated by the big idea and programme but it is as much the unspectacular habit and routine. It follows a time-table. Every five years, the people renew their pact with their representatives, elect a government. In this context, the clamour from some quarters that the Election Commission should delay the assembly polls in Karnataka must be asked to explain itself. In the democratic and constitutional order of things, Karnataka must elect a new assembly by May 28, when the six months' duration of president's rule runs out. The argument is that the fourth Delimitation Commission may not be able to complete its crucial task of remapping India's political geography by that time. In Karnataka, that argument is beginning to sound like a political ruse.

It has been pointed out that Rule 24 of the Registration of Electors Rules 1960 provides for a situation like the one in Karnataka - when the delimitation formalities have yet to be completed and an election needs to be held. By all accounts, the EC has already got down to the task at hand in the state. But the existence of an enabling provision or the EC's evident efficiency is unlikely to reassure the Congress, for instance. In Karnataka, the party is splintered into many factions; its grand 'rainbow coalition' is not yet in place. The promised return of S.M. Krishna to active politics may help the party regain a charismatic Vokkaliga face, but it is also certain to renew the jostling in the state unit. Further, the Congress stands to gain from the redrawing of Karnataka's political map. While the assembly strength will stay at 225, the reserved SC seats will go up from 33 to 36 and ST seats from 2 to 15. In all, 16 new SC/ST seats will be added - arguably inclined towards the Congress. The Congress also hopes that the sympathy wave said to be generated for the BJP after its cavalier treatment by the JD(S) last year will wane if polls are delayed. The BJP, on the other hand, ostensibly united under its hapless CM of eight days, B.S. Yediyurappa, banks on the existence of the wave that its rival suspects, and pushes for polls on schedule.

Political parties may have their reasons for fearing or welcoming the tryst with the voter, but surely those cannot be allowed to determine or derail democracy's time-table. The rules of the game must surely trump the partisan or political motive. When it takes a decision on Karnataka polls, the EC will hopefully be mindful of this.

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