Saturday, July 14, 2012

President’s election stands vitiated beyond redemption

President’s election stands vitiated beyond redemption
EC can’t shirk responsibility

Whatever may be the final result, but one thing is clear: The present election to the country’s top office of the President of India stands vitiated beyond redemption. It will go down in the history as, so far, the most controversial one after, perhaps, the 1972 election which returned Mr. V. V. Giri as the President. It was Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s call for ‘conscience vote’ that tilted the scales in favour of independent candidate and tilted tables against her own party’s official candidate Mr. Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy of whom she herself was one of the proposers when he filed his nomination papers.

‘Conscience vote’

The present election has a different story, a different angle and a different dimension. AS everybody knows, the choice of the presidential candidate by the Congress Party was dictated more by political expediency than by merit or the free will of the people who mattered in the party. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had to take a final call because of the attitude of supporting parties and not by her wish to see Mr. Pranab Mukherjee in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. But now that he is the candidate, it is equally her responsibility and that of her government to ensure that he wins and wins comfortably. But for a ny last minute rethinking or calls for “conscience vote”, the election of Mr. Mukherjee is a foregone conclusion.

Yet, as everybody knows, there are many a slip between the cup and the lip. That is why the Congress is not taking chances. Its ally, WB chief minister’s TMC remains as elusive as ever. Nobody knows whom her party will vote on July 19. That is why the Congress and its government are not taking chances. They are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all their allies and those from outside the alliance who have committed their support to Mr. Mukherjee are kept in good humour.

Special economic packages

That is why after Mr. Mukherjee had filed his nominations, Manmohan Singh government has sanctioned special economic packages to two of its just-won friends to support Congress candidate: Bihar ruled by JD(U) given ` twenty thousand crores and Uttar Pradesh ruled by Samajwadi Party ` fifty thousand crores as special economic packages, from the public exchequer, not from the Congress Party funds.

What is more surprising is the fact that the Election Commission (EC) of India which has the constitutional duty to supervise and superintend the elections is failing to discharge its obligations to ensure a “free and fair” presidential poll and that no candidate/political party is able to fight the election from a better position of strength and advantage. Further, it has also to ensure that every candidate has access to the public resources on equal footing.

Election to the office of the President of India is in no way different from that of a general election to Parliament and State assemblies. Agreed that in this election the common elector is not the voter but for all intents and purposes the common voter takes part in an indirect way through the exercise of votes by his/her elected representatives. Under the election law, the collegium of MPs, MLAs and MLCs are in no way different from the common voter in a general election. Even the value of an MP/MLA’s vote is determined by the number of electors in his constituency in the State. Therefore, just as it is the duty of the EC to prevent the government and political parties in a general election from doing anything that puts an unhealthy allurement/inducement or pressure or influence on the voter in a particular manner, so is it duty bound  in the present election. Had it been a general election to Parliament or a State assembly, the Union government stood barred from  announcing any special package to any State, as the Manmohan government has done for Bihar and UP. This act of the Union government put an ‘unhealthy and undue’ influence and amounts to an ‘allurement/inducement’ to the voters (in this case MPs and MLAs belonging to Bihar and UP and belonging to JD(U) and Samajwadi Party) to vote in a particular manner.

Why no code of conduct?

As soon as the EC announces the election schedule for a State assembly or Parliament it instantly enforces the Model Code of Conduct for Political Parties that prohibits from doing what the Manmohan government has recently done after the announcement of elections to the office of President and filing of nominations by the respective candidates. Why did EC not do it in the case of the current elections and kept its eyes and ears shut to what the Union government has done to cast unhealthy influence on ‘voters’ remains unexplained.

ATimes of India report on July 13 stated that from now onwards all HP government decisions to remain under EC lens in spite of the fact that the term of the present HP government and State assembly expires in January 2013, about six months away. EC has not as yet announced the poll schedule. Yet, HP government decisions have been put under “EC lens”. But what wrongs are being done when the election process for President is right under way, the “EC lens” has stopped working. Does it not mean that EC is employing double standards? Does it also not put question mark on the EC profession of impartiality, fairness and freedom?

So whatever it is, whoever is at fault and guilty of dereliction of its duty and responsibility to ensure a free and fair election, the current election of the President of India in addition to the unresolved controversy of Mr. Mukherjee holding office(s) of profit, stands vitiated beyond redemption.                                                                  ***

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