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ECI must not let off Code violators lightly

When will political parties and their candidates and their followers learn to be decent and ethical? Violations of the Model Code of Conduct that came into force with the announcement of the Lok Sabha by the Election Commission of India are large in number.The ECI finds it difficult to quickly decide on complaints, though they have been pouring across the country. Action on the complaints has to be prompt, else their value is lost.

Of course, there are some significant decisions that the ECI has given on complaints of violations of the code. The ECI found Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath guilty, though they let him off with a warning to be careful in his speech in the future. Adityanath had referred to the Indian army as “Modiji ki sena” (Modi’s army) in his speech at a rally in Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. Even some BJP senior leaders disapproved of Adityanath’s description, as Indian army is politically wholly neutral and is not influenced by who is the prime minister and which party is ruling at the Centre.

The ECI also found NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar guilty of violation. Kumar, reacting to the Congress party’s minimum income guarantee scheme NYAY, had tweeted that the scheme would fail economic and execution tests. Kumar also said the scheme would bust fiscal discipline, create strong disincentives against work and will never be implemented. The ECI held that Kumar’s tweets were objectionable and in violation of model code of conduct but let him off with a reprimand.

Governor of Rajasthan Kalyan Singh urged Bharatiya Janata Party workers to ensure BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections. The ECI found his statement violated the model code of conduct as a Governor was not supposed to do that. The ECI reported the violation to President Ram Nath Kovind who has referred the matter to the Union government for appropriate action. A complaint has also been filed against Lt Governor of Puducherry Kiran Bedi for violation of model code of conduct. The leaders of opposition parties too have been accused of violations.  Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been accused of using inappropriate language against BJP leaders. A Bahujan Samaj Party leader Omar Ali Khan has been accused of misbehaving with a sub-divisional magistrate.

The ECI guidelines on the model code of conduct are very clear. However, politicians go to any extent to win elections. The disregard for the code by those who are makers and upholders of the rule of law is a very sad commentary.  No party can claim to have strictly abided by the do’s and don’ts set by the ECI. How can the same political parties be trusted to establish and maintain the rule of law when they are elected to power?

It is precisely because of the wrong methods that the political parties use to win over voters and elections that many of the promises made to the countrymen cannot be fulfilled. It is an irony that many ordinary followers and supporters of political parties or politicians also join the dirty brigade and indulge in indecent, inflammatory and defamatory posts in the social media. Even educated citizens get into the unethical practices, which is not good for the health of the Indian democracy. With no stern action being taken by the ECI against violations there appears to be no fear of the law among politicians. Cases of violations are piling up faster than the EC can handle. The blame for increase in the number of complaints is being put on the poll body for its inept handling of the cases and being lenient in taking action against the violators.

With gentle reprimand not enough for the offences committed by them, such as in Adityanath’s case, they would be more clever in the use of words and get away with what they want to say. The ECI needs to deliver deterrent penalties to those that violate the model code of conduct in their speeches or writings in the media including social media. The penalties must be handed down regardless of which party the accused belong to. The ECI should dispose complaints in a judicious manner even if means displeasing powerful people in order to establish fair play in the elections.

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