Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Follow us on
National

EC action on code violations mixed bag’

April 14, 2019 06:09 AM

COURTESY HINDUSTAN TIMES APRIL 14

EC action on code violations mixed bag’
NEW DELHI: The Ali-Bajrang Bali controversy may have earned Yogi Adityanath notice from the Election Commission of India, his second this poll season, but UP CM is not the only one to breach the model code of conduct (MCC). The MCC forbids candidates from canvassing on the basis of religion; a Supreme Court order also bars candidates from making appeals for votes on communal lines; yet there are over 75 complaints listed on the EC’s website against leaders making speeches with content that is prohibited.

Have the notices issued by the election commission that ask candidates to be watchful of their speeches and at best censure them for violations failed to prove a deterrent?

A former chief election commissioner, requesting anonymity said, the EC needs to take “stringent and timely” steps to check violations. “Adityanath has twice flouted the norms this election season; there are others too who have not adhered to EC’s instruction on avoiding references to the armed forces; so it seems there is no deterrent,” he said. NEW DELHI: The Ali-Bajrangbali controversy was revived on Saturday, with Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati jumping into the fray.

The latter said she wants both “Ali” and “Bajrangbali”, a retort to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s comment earlier in the week that while the Opposition believes in Ali, his party believes in Bajrangbali. Ali is a revered figure among Muslims while Bajrangbali is a name for Hanuman, a Hindu deity.

Adityanath’s comments earned him a notice from the Election Commission of India, his second this season. Mayawati’s comments on Thursday that Muslims should come together and vote for the BSP-SP alliance earned her one from the body too.

But Mayawati and Yogi Adityanath are not the only ones to breach the model code of conduct (MCC). The MCC forbids candidates from canvassing on the basis of religion; a Supreme Court order also bars candidates from making appeals for votes on communal lines; yet there are over 75 complaints listed on the EC’s website against leaders making speeches with content that is prohibited.

Apart from Adityanath and Mayawati, the body issued notices this week to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader Indresh Kumar who said in Hardoi that Opposition leaders have mental health issues; and sought details of the statement made by BJP’s Unnao candidate, Sakshi Maharaj, who allegedly told voters that he is a “saint” and if they do not vote for him then we would curse them with his sins.

Cabinet minister Maneka Gandhi was also issued a notice by the district magistrate of Sultanpur, from where she is a BJP contestant, on Friday for telling Muslims that if they do not vote for her she will not help them find jobs.

Have the notices issued by the election commission that ask candidates to be watchful of their speeches and at best censure them for violations failed to prove a deterrent?

A former chief election commissioner, requesting anonymity said, the commission needs to take “stringent and timely” steps to check violations.

“Adityanath has twice flouted the norms this election season; there are others too who have not adhered to the poll panel’s instruction on avoiding references to the armed forces; so it seems there is no deterrent,” he said.

The former CEC said the commission should look at the decisions taken in 2014, when BJP president Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan were barred from campaigning for the remaining duration of the election after they failed to stick to the MCC.

This was the first time that the EC had taken such stringent measures, invoking provisions under Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives it vast powers to ensure a free and fair election.

“The commission then felt that both leaders were recalcitrant and had continued to make provocative speeches” the former CEC said.

Shah, who recently stoked a controversy for declaring that the party “will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha (Buddhists) , Hindus and Sikhs,” had in 2014 asked voters to seek revenge from those who were responsible for the Muzaffarnagar riots.

He was later allowed to campaign after he gave an undertaking that he would be mindful of his utterances.

“Since Khan (who said it was Muslims who helped win the Kargil war) did not show any remorse, the commission did not lift the ban on his rallies,” the former CEC said.

Political analysts say that the prevailing impression is that the current EC isn’t doing enough. At best, they say, this could be because of its ineptness. At worst, it could be favouritism and bias.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora did not respond to HT’s requests for an interview, but parties across the political spectrum have criticised the body for either turning a blind eye to violations of the MCC to being too slow to react.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation about the success of Mission Shakti, the launch of India’s first anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a group of 66 former bureaucrats wrote to President Ramnath Kovind complaining that the poll panel was suffering from “a crisis of credibility”, thereby “endangering the integrity of the electoral process.”

While the EC said the address did not need its sanction, the bureaucrats disagreed and said the announcement should have been left to the DRDO.

The EC is also yet to announce its decision on whether the PM flouted the MCC norms by referring to the Balakot strikes during a speech on April 9 in Maharashtra while addressing first-time voters.

The CPI (M) complained to the poll panel that he violated “the specific direction of the Election Commission to refrain from invoking the armed forces for seeking votes.”

Another former election commission official said the commission should improve its response time. He said the decisions to regulate content on NaMo TV and for not allowing the release of the biopic on PM Modi “too inordinately long”.

“The EC asked the ruling BJP to seek clearance for the political content appearing on its NaMo TV after opposition parties such as the CPM [Communist Party of India (Marxist), AAP [Aam Aadmi Party] and the Congress vociferously protested against the channel being broadcast on all direct-to-home services and allowing the BJP more room for canvassing. The EC also had to pull up public broadcaster Prasar Bharati for not being fair in coverage to political parties after a complaint was lodged; what about suo motu cognizance and quick response?” he said.

Apart from the Congress that has accused the poll panel of being blatantly partisan, favouring the BJP and its allies; TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu went to EC with a memorandum on Saturday that said, “…The manner in which the Election Commission of India, a constitutional body, mandated to superintend, direct and control the process of elections, miserably failed to live up to the spirit of the constitutional duty, is not only disturbing but also dangerous to the future of democracy in the country.

Have something to say? Post your comment