An Open Letter to the Chief Election Commissioner
17th February, 2012
Dr. S.Y. Quraishi
Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of India
Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001
Tel: 011-23717391 Fax: 011-23713412
Dear Dr. Quraishi
On 31st of December last year, just as the new year was taking over from the old, parts of a blog I had posted a few days before were published in a newspaper which brought into question your decision to declare elections in UP and the other four states at a time of the Congress’ choosing.
My argument was sanctioned by a series of acts of omissions and commissions I attributed to you in timing the elections to the benefit of the Congress Party. I quoted from news reports, including your own utterances and contextualized them against the dates you chose to base my views. [The blog post can be accessed on https://sanjaykaul.wordpress.com/ under the title “CEC. And what you don’t see”]
You took exception and demanded to know from my party President whether that was indeed the view of the BJP as a whole or my individual opinion. I remember writing to my Party president that whereas the views may indeed have been personal, the position was consistent and as later events proved, even prescient.
It does not humour me to note that I have been too right about it all.
Consequent developments have seen a Congress Minister [of Law too!] exfoliate your commitment to ‘a level playing field and free and fair elections without reference to caste and communality’ in as brazen a manner as could possibly be. Your coquettish complaints thereafter, to the PM and the President, and the rebuttals from the Minister in question and finally a coded apology that seemed to have satisfied you rather quickly are to my mind, signals of the same syndrome.
It strikes me as strange that the custodian of India’s electoral apparatus does not see the plain design of the Congress to achieve its ends through pre-meditated bursts of communal appeasement with the warm and fuzzy assurance that they will finally be exonerated with a sweet apology. In fact, the pattern seems to suggest, as one Member of Parliament put it, a ‘scripted’ act where while the Congress played its part, you stepped up to your role as well.
Your good natured hemming and hawing in the face of a blatant appeal to communalism and refusal to take action has only established a new low for the EC and it may now be said with greater clarity that your tenure is on the anvil of notching up the dubious reputation for the EC of becoming a lap-dog institution instead of the watch-dog institution it was expected to be.
It may be pertinent to note now that the virus has spread and another Congress Minister – the vaunted architect of the Congress dream for UP – has embarked on the same course which makes it seem that the Commission was barking up the wrong tree in the first place. In reference to the Congress party, writing to the PM, or the President makes no sense, you should have known. And you should have also known that nobody says what they say without sanction from the Family.
Your naïveté is endearing but it is too practiced to carry conviction.
I can see the BJP trying its best to keep its angst at bay and approach you in the best traditions of keeping the institution alive, respectfully making submissions while you are constantly having to wink at the other side. Naturally, it does not make the Commission look good.
A spokesperson for the Congress party has found this conflict grounds enough to initiate a grander debate on electoral reforms and suggested that the model code of conduct be made statutory if you had problems with such behaviour. This boorish response has escaped you to the detriment of the situation and today the EC cuts a sorry figure, wringing its hands while the Congress kicks it in its teeth.
Why should you be absolved?, that is the question. That you have no punitive powers, or that statute limits your actions is no excuse.
It is a fact that the purposes of the Congress were met in the very first utterances of its Ministers in charge. The promises they made, repeated and reiterated to Muslims hold even after your censure and their apology. Their message has been conveyed to the electorate. It has been reiterated. It was then repeated. The deed is done. So what use apology, what worth censure?
A perfectly neutral, and proactive CEC would see that the damage has been done, and irreparably too. A conscientious CEC – should he not be part of it – would see through the game and comprehend the diabolical sting in the tail of this strategically planned string of misdemeanours. A morally strong CEC would see the pattern and decide that the atmosphere is already vitiated, the communal balance is disturbed and the basic law of equality and electoral fairness compromised. And he would act – with the powers at his command.
I am saying that there is a fit case for countermanding the elections in UP.
Muslims are the largest bloc of voters. They directly influence election results in 173 constituencies out of the 403 going to polls, not to talk of bearing their weight on many other constituencies in collaboration with other voter blocs. The appeals to Muslims by Congress Ministers, its justification by the Congress’ first family, the insolent repetition of the same by other members of that party are all solid grounds to propose that the fundamental tenet of a communally neutral election has been compromised. In a secular democracy, this should have been blasphemy.
Secular parties have resisted, refrained and refused to stoop as low. The parties which did not make appeals on caste and communal orientation stand to lose for following constitutional norms. The level playing field is not level anymore. Your mandate – and promise – to hold free and fair elections is challenged.
Should you draw enough courage and order the countermanding of elections in UP, you will redeem not only your own credibility, but the status of the EC in the eyes of the nation.
Should you choose to not do it, I will understand.