Time to Give EC the Teeth to Bite at Stray Bark
“Raise my wages” threatened a worker, “otherwise……” The boss was equally unrelenting and aggressive. He shot back in a still shriller voice, “What otherwise?” Downing his head and without looking at the boss, the worker lowered his voice and said, “Otherwise will work on the same wages”.
That exactly was the way the political bigwigs who raised great hue and cry after losing elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and elsewhere in March 2017 behaved without a sense of responsibility and shame. The Election Commission (EC) of India threw an open challenge at them to prove their charge that electronic voting machines (EVMs) can be tampered with or hacked, by inviting them to an event starting June 3. They proved meek when they failed to accept the challenge None of the irreprehensible and great warriors of political parties had the courage to accept the EC dare. Thus they let the EC have a walk over without its critics presenting even semblance of a fight. EC thus had the last laugh. The critics so sonorous have now gone dubiously dumb.
Congress won in Punjab and formed its government. It could find nothing wrong in EVMs there. But to it the EVMs looked tampered with in Goa, Manipur, Uttarakhand and UP where it faired poorly.
So is the story of Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal, BSP Supremo Ms Mayawati and the likes about the alleged manipulation of EVMs. They claimed that they had not been defeated by the electorate but by the EVMs. All these parties did win some seats in the States where elections were held. By their averments did they mean that wherever they could win it was all courtesy EVM manipulation? In that case, they should have rejected the win of their candidates wherever it happened because of EVM manipulation. They did not do so. They, thus, gave the impression as if the voting machines were the villains only where they could not win and elsewhere these truly reflected the will of the people.
Congress was voted to power on the strength of these very EVMs in 2004 and 2009 at the Centre and in various States. Were these results outcome of EVMs ‘manipulated’ in Congress favour? BSP was victorious and Ms Mayawati formed government in UP in 2007 through a verdict interpreted by these very EVMs. AAP first got a fractured mandate in 2013 and later in 2015 was voted to power in Delhi winning 67 of 70 seats with these very EVMs. Mahagathbandhan of JD (U)-RJD-Congress won November 2015 elections in Bihar. Neither Mayawati nor Kejriwal nor Congress and RJD then raised an iota of doubt on these EVMs. These very machines were then, to them, the true interpreters of the will of people.
This only showed how low some of our political parties could drift in an effort to hoodwink the people to disguise their failure. But whom are they kidding — those who voted and know whom they voted? People seem satisfied that the machines were in word, spirit and numbers a reflection of the way they voted. That explains why there was no outpouring of public support for EVM baiters. Should then our political parties and their leaders be allowed to have the license, at will, to tarnish, without an iota of proof, the image of an institution of the Constitution, like the EC, for their narrow politically selfish ends?
Recently, according to media reports, EC has written to the Law Ministry seeking powers to act against those questioning the poll panel’s credibility through unfounded allegations. It has sought amendments to the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, to empower it to punish anyone being disobedient or discourteous towards its authority.
It is the prerogative of the Union government to accept or reject the request. Yet something certainly needs to be done to inject a sense of accountability and responsibility among the political class so that they do not go reckless in hurling baseless charges. Some political leaders make EC the target to settle scores with their opponents in power. No leader — be it a Delhi chief minister, a union minister or a big or small political leader — can be allowed the licentious tongue and irresponsible behaviour. Everyone does so boldly with a sense of pride and achievement only because he is cocksure that he will never be called upon to prove his charge and on failing to do so, face the consequences.
By Amba Charan Vashishth