Friday, March 13, 2009

Politics of Violation

Elections in India are becoming a joke with each passing phase. With every election, more and more incidents of lawlessness and rigging are being reported. And along with this is also the unabated continuation of the violation of the Election Commission rules by the political parties. This thing is clearly reflected in the reply to a Right to Information (RTI) concerning the violation of election rules by the political parties.

Afroz Alam Sahil, an RTI activist, had filed an RTI petition asking the number of cases that were registered against various political parties during the last Lok Sabha elections in 2004 for violating election commission rules. The petitioner had filed the application on 27th January this year and the reply came in a month later on 27th February. The reply contained a list of all the political parties who had been booked under committing violation of election rules along with the number of complaints received in the Commission against each party. The list also contained the actions that were taken on account of the Commission against the offending parties.

In this list, the Indian National Congress came on top with a total of seven cases filed against them. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came in second with six cases against them. And the Telegu Desam Party came in third with four cases against them. The other parties in the list included parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, etc. each of whom had one or two cases filed against them.

The actions that have been taken in this regard by the Election Commission are something which falls short of expectations. In the RTI, most of the actions mentioned that were taken by the Commission are of the nature of forwarding the complaints to the Chief Election Officer (CEO) of the region. And after that, there is no answer as to the present status of the cases. There is no mention of the nature of actions taken by the CEO against the offending parties. And in some cases, it is mentioned that action were not necessary at all. But here again, the reason for this is not given in the RTI reply.

The RTI reply also contained information on the BJP’s infamous CD scandal which they committed in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The reply stated that the Commission had received 19 complaints against the Party. The Commission had directed the CEO of Uttar Pradesh to file the same number of FIRs against the State BJP President Mr. Lalji Tandon and his associates for the production of the CDs. But even today the information on the Police enquiry is awaited by the Commission. This clearly shows the real level of importance given to the Election Commission by government institution like the Police Force.

The petitioner, Afroz Alam Sahil says that this thing clearly reflects the lack of a strong hold on the election procedures by the Commission. He further says that most of the incidents where political parties openly violate election rules by distributing liquor and rigging votes go unreported. And it is due to this that the political parties get more emboldened to break rules in each poll without any fear of repercussions.

Now with the General Elections next month, flouting of rules will again become rampant. This will be a test for the Election Commission to prove that it is not some toothless organisation which can’t punish the offending parties when it is needed. The reply to the RTI has pointed out some serious defects in the functioning of the Commission. The offending political parties have not received any stern punishments due to which a mockery of democracy has been made. It is about time that the Election Commission mended its loopholes so that the political parties can be brought under its proper scanner for the upcoming Lok Sabha election.
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