Election Commission-BJP Nexus Is All too Clear – and Bengal Is the Latest Example

Of their seminal work How Democracies Die, Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt put it succinctly: democracies die by the hands of elected leaders who subvert the very course of that introduced them to energy. The elected authoritarians slowly, however steadily, weaken the essential establishments just like the judiciary and press and the established political norms.

The authoritarians make use of ingenious strategies to get re-elected with an even bigger majority. That may give them not solely legitimacy however an aura of invincibility. Of over two dozen international research on ballot rigging, How you can Steal an Election in Broad Daylight by Nic Cheeseman and Brian Klaas and How Autocrats can Rig the Recreation and Injury Democracy by Lucan Ahmad Manner and Steven Levitsky stand out.

Levitsky narrates how the ruling events pack judiciaries, electoral commissions and different impartial our bodies to make sure that the incumbent will win essential electoral, authorized or different disputes. The professors talked about rigging strategies like gerrymandering, rotten borrows and placing up namesakes to confuse the voters. None of that is new to Indians.

Amit Shah’s operation in West Bengal might nicely provide way more useful enter for political scientists. The house minister’s political aides, BJP’s state prabhari, union ministers assigned to the constituencies, native BJP leaders, the CRPF, and most disturbingly the Election Fee and its observers labored in tandem for 4 months.

Take a look at the flip of occasions:

  • EC singled out West Bengal by saying an eight-phase election unfold over 5 weeks. A livid Mamata Banerjee burst out: “Is Amit Shah operating the Election Fee? He’s giving directions to EC. Now EC has eliminated my safety officer on his (Shah’s) directions.”
  • EC ordered the removing of Virendra because the director-general of police and substitute him with P. Nirajnayan. The Fee additionally ordered the switch of the sub-divisional police officer of Haldia and the circle inspector of Mahishadal in Purba Medinipur. A livid Mamata Banerjee hit out once more: “Who’s operating the Election Fee? Amit Shah, are you operating it?”. EC mentioned the cops have been eliminated on suggestions of its particular observers Ajay Nayak and Vivek Dube whose very credibility TMC had questioned.
  • Sitting in her wheelchair, Mamata alleged Amit Shah was “instructing” Central forces. “That is shameful. The individuals will give them a befitting reply,” she roared.
  • Within the midst of the polls, the enforcement directorate probing the Saradha ponzi rip-off connected property value Rs three crore of TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, Satabdi Roy and Debjani Mukherjee. Roy claimed she had returned the cash a 12 months in the past. The 2 TMC leaders requested why related motion was not taken in opposition to BJP leaders like Mithun Chakraborty. Additionally, throughout polls, the CBI grilled Rujira Banerjee, Mamata’s nephew’s spouse, in an alleged coal smuggling case.
  • “BJP leaders sitting in resorts are distributing enormous quantities of cash. They’re conducting horse-trading,” Mamata alleged and requested. “The place is the Election Fee? The place is their naka checking?” she requested. “The BJP is bringing goons from Bihar, UP to disrupt peace in Bengal.”
  • At Nandigram, she alleged inaction by Election Fee. “We now have lodged 63 complaints since morning. However no motion has been taken. We are going to transfer the courtroom. That is unacceptable,” she thundered.
  • In a uncommon concession, the EC decreased its 48-hour marketing campaign ban on Assam BJP chief Himanta Biswa Sarma to 24 hours after he expressed “remorse”. Weekly newsmagazine Outlook quoted a critic having questioned the EC for various guidelines for DMK’s A. Raja and Sarma. Raja too confronted an analogous ban by the ECI however regardless of rendering an apology, it was not relaxed.
  • The chief election commissioner brazenly inspired his particular police observer Vivek Dubey who was introduced from one other state. He thought he might bludgeon the state administration into submission. About 1.30 lakh central armed forces have been posted in West Bengal, clearly with the lively help of Amit Shah. The latter mixed his position as residence minister in addition to the BJP boss.
  • We now have not heard complaints of large-scale rigging, however from deciding the polling schedule to creating and implementing COVID-19 tips, the EC has gone out of the best way to allow the ruling celebration on the Centre, says Yogendra Yadav, psephologist and activist.
  • After the outcomes got here out, Mamata Banerjee alleged if the Election Fee had not ‘rigged’ the polls, BJP would have been decreased to lower than 30 seats. She sought electoral reforms to guard the democratic cloth.

Explicitly partisan 

Sunil Arora was introduced in as chief election commissioner in December 2018, simply 4 months earlier than the Lok Sabha polls. Since then he was seen as an appendage of the ruling elite. It was alleged that he delayed the 2019 Lok Sabha ballot rollout as much as March 10, 2019 to provide sufficient time for the Prime Minister to finish his inauguration spree. The Supreme Courtroom needed to intervene six occasions to warn Nirvachan Sadan in opposition to deviations from the precept of truthful play.

In the middle of two months within the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, as many as 40 severe complaints have been filed with the fee by the opposition leaders. By no means up to now had the fee acquired as many as 40,000 complaints from the political events and candidates. Choices on a few of the opposition complaints have been saved pending for over a month.

File photograph of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. Photograph: PTI

On April 16, 2019, the Supreme Courtroom threatened to pull the CEC to the courtroom to clarify his failure to impose restrictions on hate speech. Two weeks later, on April 29, 2019, the apex courtroom ordered to listen to the complaints of non-action by the fee in a number of particular complaints. That day, Nirvachan Sadan hurriedly referred to as a full assembly of the fee to listen to the complaints in opposition to Modi and Shah and ‘others like Rahul Gandhi’.

The chief election commissioner’s repute as an neutral establishment suffered as a result of it confirmed uncommon reluctance to take up complaints of the code violation by the Prime Minister. On April 1, 2019, Modi mentioned at Wardha that Rahul Gandhi was contesting from a “secure” constituency “the place the bulk group is in minority”. The communal undertone was obvious. But it took 4 weeks for the EC to conclude that Modi’s was an “harmless” comment. At Latur on April 9, 2019, Modi made a direct enchantment to the first-time voters asking them to dedicate their votes to the Air Drive staff that struck at Balakot and the martyrs of Pulwama. Nirvachan Sadan held that Modi didn’t immediately enchantment for votes within the identify of armed forces.

As per guidelines, the marketing campaign in West Bengal was to finish at 5 pm on Could 17, 2019. The EC issued the unprecedented order on Could 16, 2019, afternoon following complaints from the native BJP leaders. What made it all of the weirder was that the ban got here into impact from 10 am. Why 10 am? As per chief minister Mamata Bannerjee, the revised timing was to facilitate a Modi rally in Bengal which was to finish at 10 am that day.

Nonetheless, Ashok Lavasa, one of many commissioners, didn’t assist the CEC on lots of his contentious choices. Such choices have been taken by a cut up verdict of two-to-one. This included the clear chit given to Prime Minister on his speeches on April 1, 6 and 9, 2019. For this, Lavasa needed to undergo harassment by companies just like the enforcement directorate. Out of the blue, his spouse, son and sister got here below investigation. Lastly, in August, 2020, he resigned as election commissioner to affix Asian Improvement Financial institution.

The Outlook weekly urged that Sunil Arora might nicely get a gubernatorial publish after retirement. Of late, such quid professional quo has occurred in different instances, together with that of chief justice of India. That’s not the purpose.

Incumbents like Sunil Arora are offshoots of what the GroundTruth Mission calls authoritarian’s playbook. Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian Playbook is a examine chronicling strategies utilized by seven populist authoritarians, together with Narendra Modi. Undermining establishments is prime on the populist agenda. The opposite six are to rewrite historical past, goal outsiders, exploit faith, weaponise worry, divide and conquer and erode fact.

P. Raman lined politics for nationwide dailies since 1978 and is the creator of Sturdy Chief Populism: How Modi’s Hybrid Regime Mannequin Reshaping Political Narrative, Ecosystem and Symbols.

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