Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Illustration by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
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By now, it doesn’t matter anymore who wins the five assembly elections of 2021, which come to a close Thursday with the last phase of polling in West Bengal. Because we already know who the real loser is — the Election Commission of India.

By turning a near-blind eye to the massive rallies and roadshows at a time when India is battling an unprecedented pandemic that thrives on crowds, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has done a great disservice to the people of the country, and has established itself as the new ‘caged parrot‘.

Its latest decision to ban victory rallies after results are announced on 2 May is a classic case of too little, too late and frankly, too laughable. Banning victory rallies is easy. After all, they don’t help fetch votes for the political party you’re pandering to. The poll panel’s move is very evidently just a case of mere optics in the face of the backlash the commission has received for allowing elections to carry on with a sense of normality that would embarrass even this virulent virus.

While the ECI has not really done much it should feel proud of in recent years, its conduct in the 2021 assembly polls has unequivocally established what it lacks — both teeth and a spine.


Also read: Did Ashok Lavasa case change it all for EC? Why India needs a TN Seshan: Ex-IAS officer


The caged commission

The ECI has increasingly appeared like a body that favours the party in power — Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s Bharatiya Janata Party. The commission, meant to be unflinchingly neutral and independent by the very definition of its role, has done enough and more for questions to be raised about its conduct.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time the ECI or its top officers have been put under the scanner for their apparent inclination towards the ruling party, ever since the post-T.N. Seshan era that redefined the commission and its powers. Remember the infamous and nasty N. Gopalaswami-Navin Chawla spat in which the former recommended Chawla’s removal after the BJP alleged he was close to the Congress, which was in power at the time? Both Gopalaswami and Chawla came out looking bad in the BJP-Congress proxy war, thereby eroding the credibility of the commission.

But the past few years have been especially jarring, with the ECI’s brazen bent towards the current powerful ruling dispensation. Consider these.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the ECI was inexplicably generous about multiple allegations of model code of conduct violations against PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, giving them both clean chits. This, despite a note of dissent by one of its own — then election commissioner Ashok Lavasa. Not to forget, the ECI just sat on the complaints against Modi and Shah till Supreme Court intervened and ordered it to act on them.

A slew of opposition parties and leaders — from Congress’ Rahul Gandhi to Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress have questioned the ECI’s neutrality. Sure, the opposition tends to amplify, and sometimes perhaps even just drops hints of key institutions siding with the government, with or without basis. But it would be way too much of a coincidence that a majority of non-BJP parties feel the same way, and so vehemently at that.

Things have come to such a pass that it seems the EC waits for PM Modi to finish all his inaugurations and announcements before it declares election dates and the model code kicks in.


Also read: In West Bengal, why Covid is likely to turn the poll turf in favour of Mamata


Turning blind eye to Covid

This year’s set of assembly elections have raised questions on not just the objectivity of the ECI, but also on its moral compass.

When India is drowning in the worst ever crisis since Independence, the body solely responsible for the conduct of polls, is playing mute spectator, if not an active enabler, in politicians’ blind quest for power, by allowing maskless and over-crowded rallies.

Various high courts have come down heavily on the ECI. While the Calcutta High Court registered its unhappiness with the poll panel, the Madras High Court went many steps further, calling for its officials to be booked for murder. Let’s look at some of the ‘steps’ the ECI started taking after the backlash.

The commission decided to extend the ‘silent period’ before polling in West Bengal from 48 to 72 hours, and limited the timing of campaigning to 7pm from the earlier 10pm. Perfunctory measures, at best, because the ECI knows just as well as we do that neither does the Covid-19 virus attack only at night, nor does it wait for the last lap of campaigning ahead of voting.

The commission first shot off a letter to state and national political parties asking them to follow social distancing norms and Covid-19 guidelines while holding rallies — the operative part being ‘while holding rallies’ — with a mild warning of banning rallies.

No errant child, of course, cares about a gentle rap on the knuckles. That is just the sign of an indulgent parent forced to admonish a child owing to social niceties.

When things seemed to get worse, the ECI decided to really ‘do’ something. So, it waited till as late as 22 April to ban rallies and roadshows of over 500 people. One, how are 500 people gathered in a crowded space justified at a time when even two can be a crowd? And two, was it mere serendipity that the ECI’s order came just an hour after PM Modi had cancelled his rallies scheduled in West Bengal the next day? With campaigning for the penultimate phase of polling anyway ending soon, the commission has caused minimum damage to the plans of the enthusiastic campaigners.

These, of course, were measures merely for West Bengal, which finds itself in the middle of an inexplicably long-drawn election. The huge rallies and public meetings in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam are now a thing of the past. And let me give just a tiny example of how devastating the ECI’s decisions have been. My colleague Mohana Basu crunched some data to find that in West Bengal, Covid cases rose 1500 per cent in just one month since 20 March.

A couple of weeks ago, I argued why the Covid-19 surge must weigh heavily on Modi and Shah’s conscience. Truth be told, it ought to rattle the conscience of the poll body as much, making it question everything it is supposed to stand for.

These have been hotly contested elections. And 2 May will tell us who among the BJP, TMC, Congress, and others has won. But we don’t need to wait till Sunday to know who has lost — it is the Election Commission of India, which has acted as the Enabler of Coronavirus in India.

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35 COMMENTS

  1. The print my god..so much hatred towards one party..not sure about the agenda here ..Anyways big rallys were done by other partied as well in Bengal..not a word about them…Ha Ha looks like some one is favohring anti BJP forces here as well..

  2. Correct ..all this award wapasi people have started giving gyan because they have realised That this time TMC is losing . if TMC would have been wining it then these people would have not written anything . if rallies has been done by BJP then same has been done by C

    These award wapasi people are feeling because from so many years there was no strong opposiom in Bengal . but Now BJP has establish himself as strong contender .

    Pahle BJP sirf maar kha rahi thee par ab BJP ke pass itna logo ki.support hain ki won TMC ka jawab de rahi hain usi ke language mein .

  3. Hahahahaha even in times like these where I’ve come to not just hate but feel disgusted at Modi, I still enjoy the seething of people like this. Man it feels good. Anyway, I think it just further proves that modi or not, I’m never siding with anyone that’s remotely pro k2ua.

  4. Ruhi Tewari, what an analysis! It was supposed to be a commentary on polls in five state and UT. Alas ! There was no other mention of any entity other than Bengal. By the way the Bengalis has suffered almost half a century for inept leadership. People must get chance to change they deserve. By the way in none of the election bound states Covid second wave is not un manageable. Get your facts right. Dear the Print I pity upon you that you pay such person

  5. Earlier it used to be Shivam vij ( thank god he has stopped writing in print) and now this lady..they hv innate hatered for present govt. They claim neutral but look at their articles..u can’t find a single article this writer written , said anything positive/ good for Modi..why she can’t declare she is congress sympathiser , what is wrong in that..at least v know where u stand..she forgets in all election state , all opposition leaders camapigned , she has no problem with that, Mamta do rallies no issue, Modi does..she cried..

  6. The author has surprisingly left others who are also equally responsible for this pandemic situation. These are, the several political parties and their leaders and their supporters. The crowds which turned out to the election rallies are not less responsible for this. Though the ECI is also partly responsible. And then comes another issue, the present covid situation in India is not due to the states where elections have been held but because of the states like Maharashtra and Delhi where there are no elections this time around. So, there are other causes also for this situation.Hence,the article is not fair in its analysis of the current situation.

  7. TMC made big rally after announced only virtual rally. When Mamata was in opposition she often demand 8th phase election. Now she’s crying. EC made a great job. Don’t try to one side report. Trying to be neutral.

  8. Even among lame and baseless articles, this is a topper. Not a shred of facts, not even counts of how many poll code violations against BJP v/s TMC. This election Dilip Ghosh, Rahul Sinha, Himanta Biswa Sarma all received bans, many more BJP leaders for much lesser offences than did Mamata, who led a truly vicious campaign centred on egging villagers to violently attacking CRPF and polling officials. Given this, she faced no censure at all. Campaigns are either banned for all, or banned for none. There is no way this creates a bias towards any party. This is not a particularly long-drawn election. 2011 had 6 phases, 2016 had 7 phases, this has 8 phases. Nothing special, nor related to current EC or dispensation. Ashok Lavasa is a known corrupt swindler with a wife that does power-broking using his privileges, let’s not give him any credence. Mohana Basu has been all over Twitter trying to defend the Maha govt with half-cooked sentences, no one takes her seriously. “But it would be way too much of a coincidence that a majority of non-BJP parties feel the same way, and so vehemently at that.” –> no, it is no coincidence, it is a band of losers grouped together with a common grievance that they are not able to get voters to vote from them, and instead of taking responsibility, are blaming EC, like that will get them the LAKHS and LAKHS of votes needed to win any seat. State HC has no jurisdiction over the EC and in this particular case, calling a constitutional body a murderer and what not is unfortunate sensationalism. I could go on, but you get the point… these articles are not even puff pieces. Just lazy lazy lazy WhatsApp level long-posts.

  9. The ECI might be a loser but so are you Ms Journalist and the print. You are guilty of the same crime you accuse the EC of. If at all EC sides with BJP, you side with CPM and in doing so, show solidarity for ISF as well as China!

  10. Continue to do propaganda and Print will be obsolete to people with common sense.. conveniently , skip MH and Delhi cases..

    You are tying rally to COVID by doing yellow journalism. Hope you put true picture and cause for Delhi and MH and what state gov could have done and what lessons they learned and prepared after wave 1.

  11. Such a biased view… How much of election we had in maharashtra.. ec to blame for that as well… 🙃

  12. Why is that the media does not ever talk about on the fact that the people below lower middle class living in bustees and ghettos like the Muslim neighbourhoods are not affected ? Last year, the media was writing obituaries on Dharavi, exactly at this time of the year. But, then what happened ? Did the Muslim Community follow any protocols across the country ? Are they not filling up the streets for offering Namaz in this Holy Month of Ramzan ? What is their infection and mortality rate ? Has anyone bothered to know and come out with any analysis as to what makes them fearless ? Is the media writing on the fact that the crowded lines in vaccination centres are becoming the hotspots of people picking up the infection ? Dr. Zarir Udwadia, noted Pulmonologist has red flagged this point. Dr. Hemant Thacker, another noted doctor has said the same. So instead of making out a scapegoat of the ECI, the media needs to introspect on it’s own blind spots in it’s analysis. The Dharavi episode and all such neighbourhoods and ghettos across the country have clearly conveyed this conclusion that ‘Hygiene is inversely proportional to Immunity’. Have a damn debate on this !

  13. All these blame to Election commission is mainly because of TMC is loosing. So these articles suggest that at a later date, when results are announced, excuses can be brought into picture. TMC lost because of help for ruling party from election commission.
    Hell with you dirty communist backed journalusts. They have destroyed West Bengal. Now they are desperate to destroy India.

  14. It is ridiculous to blame ECI. Conducting elections is ECI JOB. Now a days Courts decisions or views is more stupid. Courts are not functioning properly and they are blaming others for their failures. With ECI decisions because of elections atheist BPL people are getting daily wages at the time of job loss.

  15. After reading the observations made by the Calcutta and then the Madras – especially murderous in its criticism – High Courts, the thought struck me that perhaps the government itself ought to worry about the emasculation of this once revered institution. It hurts global – apart from domestic – perceptions of the state of democracy if the body entrusted to conduct free and fair polls falls so much in public esteem. Each player who steps onto the field should respect the umpire or the referee. All institutions are decaying, but the decline of the ECI is especially painful.

  16. What happened to the largest ever Protest of farmers in Delhi. The UK variant has entered Delhi through Punjab. Do thousands of people living in tent cities around Delhi have no effect? That the variants are now showing up means they had been circulating for a while and before the elections.

  17. It is State Wide election Only Modi did Rally in WB ?
    What about other states where DMK,Left, Congress did major rally and Road Show . is only Modi or EC Responsible for that ?

    Why Maharashtra has Highest number of Covid cases from last Year ? there was no election .

    Stop Blaming always Modi . I think it was MVA Gov of Maharashtra alone responsible for this.

  18. Are you a journalist…if yes…like ECI u are the spineless variety…only modi and shah did rallies right…what a shameless reporter u r tiwari…get a spine

  19. EC should have been harder on TMC.they feared backlash from opposition parties.
    But for deployment of crps mamata banerjee would have gotten her way.anti covid measures would have hurt bothewuqlly.

  20. What is the point in blaming election commission? If they are taking orders from the govt, then obviously they have had no say in the prolonged duration of campaigning. They are just following orders. To expect Indians to demonstrate spine is asking too much. Look at the comments above – people are dying like flies on the streets and BJP supporters are only concerned with protecting their master’s chair!

  21. 2016 assembly elections in bengal,6 phases,nobody complained.2021 elections one extra phase for the overall increase in eligible voters in past 5 years,is too many phases?

  22. POOHI is a CONGRASS journalist.

    Whatever POOHI says now, if mumtaz Begum wins she will be all ecstatic . POOHI will shed tears of joy if mumtaz Begum fall’s short of majority and forms a coalition government with congrass.

    However if BJP wins than she will be VERY CONCERNED about COVID19 .

    So you see it’s better POOHI joins politics rather than waste time in journalism.

  23. We all know that print and group are of anti india mind set Gupta ji is biggest anti Modiji and anti BJP
    Do you mean to say on rlections spread Carona then you no sense you trying to run a anti Modiji campaign and definitely running a AGENDA in faver of CHOR CONGRESSESSSS AND MUMTAZ BANO
    IT’S INDEED VERY VERY SAMEFUL ON THE PART OF GUPTA JI THAT IS ACTING AS AGENT OF MUMTAZ BANO AND CHOR CONGRESSESSSSSSSSS

    WORST POST BY ANTI INDIAN

  24. Lol. the real losers are news traders and lootyens mafia of delhi. , including couptaji and his equally braindead sidekicks.
    They tried their best to make BJP lose these elections , but people of India have a different opinion. There was no election in Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, chattisgarh or bangalore. How come so many cases in those places ?

  25. BJP or TMC, we don’t know who’ll win Bengal or in any part of India , but we know who the loser is. What a intellectual level of contributors to The Print ! Please not it was, it is , it will be Congress party . Stop denigrating the common voters of India for punishing corrupt , non-performing Congress party and its splintered groups like TMC ,NCP etc eyc.

  26. “My colleague Mohana Basu crunched some data to find that in West Bengal, Covid cases rose 1500 per cent in just one month since 20 March.”

    But the daily death rate in West Bengal even today (April 27) was 73, whereas Delhi was 381 and Maharashtra was 895. A nice trick by journalists is to report a percent increase when the absolute count is low. Reporting covid cases is less useful than actual deaths as case counts do not account for the age demographics and younger people recover.

    • there is no way u are believing that death numbers . i stay in bengal and the numbers have been supressed by big margins . i live in a rural town , and yesterday we had 400 cases and 14 deaths in my town alone . the thing is the dead are not recognised as covid deaths instead are given the tags of “sudden cardiac arrest “. so they dont have to report the death numbers to the state health department . the only thing here we are lucky is that in bengal towns and cities we have no shortage of oxygen like in delhi , or mumbai .

    • Ms. Tewari – 1500%? Are you for real??

      Reminds one of an old 1950s book called “How to lie with statistics” – while one doubts you have come across it, you certainly are using similar tricks (in “PoliTricks”, pardon the pun).

      You insult our intelligence (and make us worry about yours) when you quote percentages when the base is so very low. You are quite sharp so please don’t pull off things like this again in your writings. The average PRINT’s reader/viewer is more perspicacious than you probably give credit for.

      Otherwise, overall point of the article (with exception of “caged parrot” – you surmise but have no proof) was fair and it had some interesting arguments.

    • Ravikumar the piece is about ECI keeping rallies open. If one party is doing it all will do or they will lose. It is common sense.
      No one can blame BJP or TMC. It is ECI to be blamed.

  27. I just guess you are who you are. It really is pointless rebutting what the commies & leftists propagate. They do believe in that indoctrination. I am sure its true for the other side as well. This is all just complete waste of time.

Comments are closed.