Never in the recent past did the conduct of the Election Commission come under cloud as it is happening in the ongoing general elections. As a referee in the largest democratic exercise in the world, the poll panel has a great responsibility to ensure a level playing field and enforce the rules of the game in a fair and impartial manner. However, the way the EC handled the allegations of violations of Model Code of Conduct by leaders of various parties leaves much to be desired. Though one of the three election commissioners, Ashok Lavasa, had dissenting views in the poll body’s decision to give clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah on charges of poll code violations, the final order did not make any mention of them. It must be pointed out that the complainants have a right to know whether the EC’s order was unanimous or there was any dissenting note. The dissent view pertained to the clean chit given to Modi with regard to his election rally at Wardha where he attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for contesting from the minority-dominated Wayanad seat in Kerala and also regarding his appeal to first-time voters in Latur by invoking the Balakot air strike and the CRPF jawans killed in the Pulwama terror attack. One of the election commissioners also disagreed with the decision to give clean chit to Amit Shah for his Nagpur speech where he made certain remarks about the demographic profile of Wayanad constituency.
It is unfortunate that the EC is coming across as selective, partisan and being vulnerable to political pressure. The Supreme Court had asked the Commission to decide by May 6 on all the opposition complaints against the alleged hate speeches and misuse of the armed forces as political propaganda by Modi and Shah. The poll body needs to clear the air on the allegations that it has been treating the leaders of the ruling party with kid gloves while coming hard on the opposition leaders in implementing the poll code. No one, including the Prime Minister, is above the poll code. It is the code that lends credibility to the entire poll process and hence it remains the gold standard for our democracy. It does not augur well for the democratic process when apex court had to intervene and issue a notice to the EC over a petition that accused it of “inaction” regarding complaints against Prime Minister and BJP chief. Amid this depressing scenario comes a shocker from PM who made a distasteful remark on Rajiv Gandhi, saying the former prime minister’s life had ended as “corrupt No 1.” This has pushed the political discourse to a new low.