Friday, May 09, 2008

EC's obsession with free and fair elections: An alternative perspective

It was refreshing to read an article in Business Line on the other side of EC's obsession with ensuring free and fair elections, in the context of the assembly elections in Karnataka.

The author says: "Newspaper reports suggest that the officials of the Commission have seized saris and utensils meant for distribution to the voters by some of the candidates. That is considered as ‘bribing to get votes’. But if the same candidate or his political party promised to provide every individual with free saris or TVs or power, that is seen as an electoral manifesto." He goes on: " Inflation shifts incomes from poorer segments to richer ones, whereas elections shift income from richer sections to poorer ones".

He concludes: "Let us not try to impose artificial European-type elections with a funereal atmosphere on the noisy but joyful and colourful Indian public. Our elections ought to be like a kumbha mela with all its pomp and revelry and free food, and not like a dark-suited solemn procession behind a carved casket."

The EC's unreasonable restrictions on the campaign have invited critical comments from political parties. The author has raised a pertinent point that the poll-eve promises of political parties could equally be considered a corrupt practice. While there is no case law on the subject, a PIL filed by one S.Subramanian Balaji challenging the Pattali Makkal Katchi's electoral promise as a corrupt practice is now pending in the Supreme Court, and was heard on April 8.
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