EC touches raw nerve

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 19 Aug 2017 12:07:39

New Delhi,

Aug 17 (Agencies):

“Democracy thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs -- the exclusion of ethical considerations,” said Election Commissioner O P Rawat while delivering a keynote address at a “Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms” organised by Association of Democratic Reforms, here. He also lashed out at poaching of legislators, use of money-power to garner support, brazen use of governmental power for intimidation …!

We cannot forget that a person of the eminence of the EC has raised these issues. He might embarrass a few, but he has, nevertheless, raised the issues that the nation can hardly ill-afford to ignore. The task may not be easy, but that is the national need of the day.
We certainly need a clean and transparent electoral and political process.

It is absolutely surprising that some elements are trying to showcase Mr. Rawat’s remarks as something that is being revealed for the first time in contemporary political and electoral history of India, as if something new has been discovered, as if something devilish is being heaped on the system for the first time. However, the so-called ‘cynical common man’ Mr. Rawat has referred to has always known that the system has long been corrupted by the country’s political community to such an extent as to make the common people develop a fair degree of cynicism about the fidelity of the entire electoral and political process.

It is common man’s common knowledge for the past half a century that elections are rarely a fair process. He knows it very well that the entire electoral process in the country has been corrupted to such an extent as to make every principle we held dear to our hearts has been made to look like a mockery, or something discussed only by the naïve and the foolish. To that extent, the observations by the Election Commissioner offer nothing path-breaking, except that a man holding an office of responsibility requires much courage to air the views. Without doubt, Mr. Rawat has shown that courage.

Let us go back in time when India began its electoral process in 1952. Let us give due credit to the fairness of the process that has often marked Indian elections since then. The official machinery has often tried its best to be fair and free and transparent, a few negative exceptions notwithstanding.

Yet, if we look at the political part of the arena, we arrive at an unfortunate conclusion that the country’s political community has forgotten the high principles by which new India’s founding fathers swore. Right in the first elections, a fair degree of improper thought-process was employed when candidates were selected on the basis of their castes and religions. This might not have happened in a big way in 1952, but history does tell us that a fair degree of caste-based manipulation was resorted to by the political parties. And that has continued since then, without exception, without any sense of shame – by almost all political parties that swear by secularism as the most sacrosanct principle of an inclusive democracy.

As part of this new religion of election, the political community often resorted to practices that have hardly had the support of ethics and principles, all those ills referred to by Mr. O.P. Rawat. And who should we blame for this? For, when elections were the fresh activity in Independent India, when the founding fathers of the new nation should have adhered to very pure ideals of electoral conduct, they resorted to undesirable practices which they had perfected even when elections were held in British India. They were the ones who divided the society on the basis of religion and caste, seeking separate constituencies for different segments. That habit, which they inculcated during the British times, continued in Independent India as well. So, in 1952, what was in evidence was continuation of an old and wrong habit.

Today, what we see is a massive and monstrous expansion of that habit. Mr. Rawat is referring just to that part of the reality now having gained ugly proportions. The question, however, is who started all this dirty business? Which was the most dominant party in the country when India became free? And was it necessary for that party to resort to those ugly practice when the entire arena belonged to it?
Answers to these questions need to be sought in total sincerity and in total loyalty to truth. Then alone can we arrive at a right picture before us.

Going back to square one, let us understand first that many illegal and unethical practices came to us almost as the British political heritage.

Dividing the Indian society into Hindu and Muslim and non-Hindu and non-Muslim blocks had become the standard way. Add to it the reality of Dalit dimension and the picture is complete -- completely undesirable, but totally accepted by the Indian political process.

Then came another twist on expected lines. The electoral reality of the India of 1950s and 1960s was that the party in power -- the Congress without doubt -- had an added advantage of being in power. Government machinery, government money and official intimidation were the tools in the ruling party’s hands. Very soon, before the country realised, that became a norm, howsoever unacceptable to the so-called ‘cynical common man’. Subsequently, India also saw emergence of dynastic politics, whose origin, too, was in Congress method and manner.

Mr. Rawat also talked of poaching of legislators. Who started the prcatice, should be a matter of honest research. Even at this moment, we are witnessing legal proceedings in the cash for question scandal. We also once saw a PM getting accused of having purchased MPs' votes.
How does the country get rid of all the unethical practices highlighted by Mr. Rawat? Unfortunately, what he is talking about is nothing new.

His righteous indignation can be understood. Yet, a question, too, can be asked about his intention. Why has he chosen to raise the issue? What is his motivation?

Let us search for honest answers to all these issues. We cannot forget that a person of the eminence of the EC has raised these issues. He has touched a raw nerve in India’s public affairs. He might embarrass a few, but he has, nevertheless, raised the issues that the nation can hardly ill-afford to ignore.

We, as a nation, will have to start looking for ways and means to cleanse the system. The task may not be easy, but that is the national need of the day. We certainly need a clean and transparent electoral and political process. If we are in a position to commence that immediately, we will serve a great cause.

Yet, the actual solution we will find not in politics but outside it – that is by taking idealistic view and adhering to it in word and deed.