Writer- Pranav Gaur
This election season is witnessing more breaches of model Code of Conduct than ever before. In this situation, Election Commission finds itself in troubled waters with raised questionability.
Conducting smooth and impartial elections have always been the prime objectives of EC. For the world’s largest democracy, election is no doubt an affair of ultimate importance. India is an exemplar of governance for whole world and every democratic country looks up to India. In this context, it is the duty of the Election Commissioner and his team of officers to ensure transparent and unbiased elections. To achieve these objectives, certain powers are bestowed to Election Commissioner. EC issues Model Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates. MCC contain variety of items which restrain election participants from going berserk in attracting voters. These may include anything from ban on party flex and banners within 100 m of polling booths to ban on introduction of a lucrative policy. MCC works as a restraining mechanism towards free and fair elections.
MCC points to an ideal behaviour on part of political bodies but as we are all aware, politics is no place for ideal behaviour. When power is at stake, politicians doesn’t give too much attention to MCC and this is what we are witnessing this season. Starting from the Yogi Adiytanath quoting Indian Army as ‘Modi sena’, to Hon’ble Governor of Rajasthan Sh. Kalyan Singh openly wishing for Modi’s second term and declaring himself a BJP worker, people from both political and constitutional positions made joke of upcoming elections. While the former defamed our army by branding them as pawns of a political figure, the latter defamed the state’s highest constitutional position by remark showing his servile attitude towards a political party. Although MCC does not apply to some highest position holders in India including a Governor, it still is a breach of Moral Code of Conduct.
There is something more than only rules and structured guidelines, we called it moral code of conduct and currently what we have is model code of conduct. Model is about rules, moral is above and beyond the rules. I am skeptical about the morality of conduct in election if we are failing miserably in implementation of MCC. In the past, political parties’ accounts have been credit with several FIRs and notices from EC with AAP leading in most breaches of MCC. A google search on ‘breach of MCC’ will return more results than the contents of this post. But why is this happening?
The answer lies in absence of statutory powers to EC, in most cases, EC could only issue warning letters for a breach or ban campaigning for some period. In rare cases, EC has restraining powers to lodge complaints as per Indian Penal Code, but EC keeps such high powers in reserve. Although the post of Election Commissioner is decorated with high level of authority, the legal powers are somehow confined. Looking at the recently developed soft attitude, many political figures are also allegeding EC of having government influence. And for an autonomous constitutional institute, these are very very serious accusations. But is it possible that EC is under influence of political party? Or government? Yes, there is some possibility. “When a government enjoys majority in the house, it can influence institutions to some extent” quotes a senior journalist. So what could be done to help the infected elections?
In the days when EC had been much more powerful, politicians feared to breach MCC- not only because of EC’s constitutional position or its strong leadership, the fear was also attributed to strong public reaction EC’s notices generated. Parties and leaders feared those reactions which tamed them. A politician’s nightmare is rejection from public, the voters, so when people took notice of EC’s actions, it easily made the election candidates behave. Today, such public reaction is hardly seen or reported. Considering the widely popular social media and political hashtags on those social media platforms, this is depressing to see youth not raising the right questions. Only if we look more closely at the working of bodies like EC, and streamline them into our discussions, we can really find some cure to this infection.
Finally, when a PM is launching his own Television and conducting conference to advertise a scientific achievement in MCC it is time to mark these as danger to the fairness of most important elections in the world’s largest democracy. Today, after all these instances, EC needs to be even more cautious than ever before and we need to be on our toes in questioning the politicians about the things which matters.