ECI’s take

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/16/2019 12:04:21 PM IST

 In an unprecedented move, the Election Commission of India has curtailed the campaign time for the nine Bengal seats that vote on Sunday, citing violence, including the flare-up during BJP chief Amit Shah’s road show that culminated in the destruction of a bust of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. Mamata had said that national icon Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s bust was demolished by the saffron-clad goons brought to the state from outside by the BJP. The pruning of the campaign window came after the Union home ministry urged EC to check electoral violence in Bengal. The unparalleled pruning of the campaign window came hours after the Union home ministry took the rare step of writing to the poll panel expressing concern at the electoral violence in Bengal, and Shah accused the commission of ignoring the “violence and rigging” in the state. The commission has also transferred Rajeev Kumar, CID additional director-general and former Calcutta police commissioner, to the Union home ministry and relieved Atri Bhattacharya, principal secretary (home and hill affairs), of his charge. The campaign closing time has now been advanced to Thursday 10pm in Dum Dum, Barasat, Basirhat, Joynagar, Mathurapur, Diamond Harbour, Jadavpur, Calcutta South and Calcutta North. Normally, campaigning would have continued up to Friday 5 pm, that is, till 48 hours before the end of polling. However, the 19-hour reduction does not stand in the way of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last rallies in Bengal in this election. He is scheduled to address meetings in Dum Dum and Lakshmikantapur that falls in the Diamond Harbour seat.Clearly the ECI’s justification of curtailing campaign time in view of law and order problem falls flat. Any sane administrative official would have ordered a blanket ban on election campaign fearing violence. However, ECI appears to believe that if Modi campaigns then there would be no violence so it deemed fit to exclude the prime minister’s rallies. It may be pointed out that the credibility of ECI has come under scrutiny with people pointing out several instances of violations of Model Code of Conduct especially involving NDA functionaries. In this regard, a group of retired civil servants on April 8 were constrained to write to the President of India Ram Nath Kovind, expressing deep anguish about the erosion of people’s confidence in the credibility and the fairness of the Election Commission of India (ECI). They appealed to the President to ensure that the conduct of the constitutional body is independent, fair and impartial. The civil servants cited example of how MCC had been violated by the ruling party but instead, the ECI took the excuse of being “toothless” and “powerless” to do anything. However in Bengal, the ECI certainly proved it was not “toothless” nor “powerless” in responding to the complaints from the BJP leaders. By invoking Article 324, the ECI certainly proved it was not toothless and powerless in sending a strong message to Mamata Banerjee. The ECI has not taken cognisance of even one of the numerous complaints against Modi for violation of MCC. Modi is a candidate and cannot be treated like a prime minister during electioneering. It is a matter of deep concern that opposition parties have lost total confidence in the impartiality of the Election Commission of India(ECI). As the ultimate arbiter of our elections, the ECI has a responsibility to be seen to be fair and impartial.

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