CONSUMERIST – LESSONS LEARNT FROM INDIAN ELECTION COMMISSION!

‘The Constitution of India has vested in the Election Commission of India the superintendence, direction and control of the entire process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India.

India’s election commission showed how to administer free and fair elections and I pray others who claim to be democracies will learn from the Indian experience! – Dr Jacob George’

CONSUMERIST – EC TOLD LEARN FROM INDIAN ELECTION COMMISSION!

This is late!

I should have responded immediately after returning from India but kudos to the Election Commission of India all the same!

Those of you who are familiar with Indian politics and have for example driven to Chennai during the last elections would have noticed the conspicuous absence of posters, banners, hoardings in the city, even though campaigning was at its peak for the April 13 elections in the state.

This is in a marked contrast from the past elections.

We all know that Tamil Nadu used to be known for its dominating, life sized cut outs of political personalities dotting the landscape at poll time. The 2011 election campaign has done away with all that, thanks to the tough stand adopted by the Election Commission of India.

In fact, I heard the distinguished SY Qureshi, the chief election commissioner not mincing his words when he called Tamil Nadu the most challenging of all elections.

Even before the polls to the five state assemblies were notified, the CEC had felt that just as “violence” would pose the big challenge in West Bengal and in Tamil Nadu it would be money power!

But I was informed by many distinguished members of the civil society that the elections that was just held was in all aspects an Election Commission’s election, not the election of the Dravidian parties!

In simple terms it was an audit and benchmarking whether the Election Commission there was dedicated, honest, independent, accountable, professional and had a dedicated yearning to promote free and fair elections in the world’s largest democracy!

That they were not plain pussies pretending to be Tigers or actually proxies and cronies of incumbents and on the take!

This last election in India was different and for example election rulings pertaining even to posters were strictly enforced what more other fundamental issues to spearhead fair and free elections!

In fact, that was not all as the Election Commission seized millions in cash after putting in place ‘flying squat’ to address corruption and abuse whenever a tip off from the members of the public came in!

I was told by the same distinguished individuals that certain extremely connected politicians became so rattled by the EC’s tough stand that the chief minister took the unprecedented stand of publicly attacking the EC for declaring what he termed as a “mini emergency” in the state!

Or for example hearing the pathetic lamentations of Home Minister P Chidambaram at the ‘absence of festivities’ in the state that an election brings.

But the message was clear when the Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came to Chennai to release the Congress party’s manifesto, skirted around the controversy, by saying that he did not want to comment on the functioning of the Election Commission, mandated by the Constitution to conduct  free and fair elections!

I concur that statement in itself was a powerful message of the things that was to come and the change in course initiated for free and fair elections in various states of India!

A senior politician told me over tea that in Tamil Nadu, to have an ordinary Inspector of Police stop the convoy of GK Vasan, senior Congress leader in Dindigul, because it had more than the permitted four cars, shows how seriously the State Electoral Officer Praveen Kumar and his team are taking their job, and even more important the extent to which they have managed to empower the officials to act independently.

The said Inspector who stopped the Congress convoy said he would have to be answerable to the EC if he allowed them.

The EC went for aggressive vehicle checking in the state and heroic stories of ordinary officials, doing their duty at considerable risk encouraged me to note that change finally came to India!

More encouraged was I hearing of another story where in Tiruchy, a woman official, a revenue division officer, equivalent to a sub divisional magistrate in the north and bear you this was her first posting had received a call in the dead of night, at around 1 am informing her of money transported in a bus. She immediately set out with her driver and office boy, picking up a couple of police inspectors on the way, and the money was found in 5 bags on top of the a bus adding up to Rs 5 crore!

There have been reports of the Chief Electoral Officer’s car being checked!

I was told that voters were encouraged that the EC had obviously got its act together even before the notification of elections.

In fact, I was told that they initiated transfers of four collectors and 6 police officials, and changed the administrative team among whom was a collector, superintendent of police and others, basically ‘ lock, stock and barrel in Madurai’ where I was told the clout of  Karunanidhi’s son, MK Azhagiri is legendary.

The new collector, for instance, did not think twice about entering the house of Azhagiri’s lieutenant and checking.

The result – massive landslides all over and in Tamil Nadu, I was happy to hear AIADMK Supremo and new Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa ascribing her party’s decisive victory in the Assembly elections to 1. people’s anger against the DMK Regime and certainly 2. lauding the Election Commission (EC) for its fantastic job in ensuring a free and fair polls in the State!

Talking to reporters at her Poes Garden Residence, ‘Amma’ as I call her affectionately had expressed her sincere thanks to the EC for the fantastic job they had done.

She went on record to place her sincere appreciation for the efforts taken by the Election Commission of India to conduct a free and fair polls in Tamil Nadu and wish her sincere thanks to the EC for the fantastic job they had done!

In West Bengal, dear friend, former Union Rail Minister, the fiery no nonsense Mamata Banerjee won a landslide as well and in Kerala another great result!

In fact, the beauty in Kerala was the ousted Chief Minister was reported to have left office after his defeat on a bicycle refusing to use the official car for a drive home and agreeing to pay for whatever bill his hand phone incurred during his tenure from his pension!

That is politics of accountability!

Just imagine what the world of politics would be – IF only Election Commissions in different jurisdiction had the religious and mental courage to do the same rather than continuing to be ‘pretenders and actors’ and violating norms and betraying voters of their vote in return for various forms of gratuitous rewards and payments?

Our campaign against RACISM of all forms!

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