Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Elections: A Saga of Violence and Violations

The 15th General Elections are knocking on our doors. And again the world’s largest democracy is gearing up to witness this political spectacle. Numerous campaigns are being carried out to urge the people to vote. And what is more interesting is that this time a huge chunk of the voters will be youngsters. And already our politicians have started to give us a good time with their political circus of myriad coalitions for the polls. But what is most noticeable is the trend where political parties openly violate election commission rules and give us rounds of violence in every election.

We have noticed it in earlier elections, and it has already started in these elections as well. The first reports of violence have appeared in the newspapers. This is a stark reminder of the fact that muscle power still dominates our electoral process. With the first phase of polling starting from 15th April, the show of violence has finally come out with the cases of two murders and one incident of violence.

On 13th April, Bahadur Sahab Sonkar, who was contesting the Jaunpur Assembly seat from the Indian Justice Party (IJP), was found dead with his body hanging from a tree. His supporters have raised a hue and cry calling it a murder, while the post-mortem report states it as a case of suicide. But inspite of it, the Election Commission has still decided to go ahead with the pollings. On the same day, Congress MLA Makhanlal Jatav was murdered in cold blood while returning from campaign in his Bhind constituency. Both these incidents took place in Uttar Pradesh, which once again highlights the high level of lawlessness prevalent there. Again on the same day, in the Godda seat of Jharkhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Nishikant Dubey was attacked by supporters of the opposition party.

These incidents are such which are not something new during elections in our country. Incidents of violence and breaking of Election Commission rules are something which political parties commit with great vigour. If we look incidents in the past, then we find out that the Election Commission has been totally inept in handling political parties for violation of rules.

If we look in the last Assembly Elections held in 2007, we find that one of the most infamous scandals was the CD scandal committed by the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. And a reply to an RTI has brought in more discredit to the Election Commission in handling discipline among political parties. Afroz Alam Sahil, an RTI activist, had filed an RTI seeking information on the CD scandal from the Election Commission. The reply stated that the Commission had received 19 complaints against the Party. The nature and the gravity of the offence committed by the BJP have also been mentioned very clearly as per the Indian Constitution. 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.

This single incident shows the inability of the Election Commission in handling serious cases of indiscipline during elections. Glorifying the gory acts of the Godhra carnage and using them as acts of rhetoric is a serious offence as it spreads communalism among the general masses. The use of communalistic propaganda is something which has been used particularly by communal parties like the BJP. Even in the recent case of Varun Gandhi’s hate speech, we see how a communal feeling has been stirred to gain on the Hindu vote bank. And here again, the inability of the Election Commission to handle the situation properly has come out. And Varun Gandhi has now emerged as the new hero of Hindutva.

So, violation of rules and incidents of violence are something which have become synonymous with elections. And we can only speculate how many more incidents of violations and violence we have to see in this General Election. And all this because our Election Commission has turned out to be a toothless organisation in dealing with these offending parties.

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