Just days after the Gujarat Rajya Sabha election which was marked BJP luring Congress MLAs and the commission rejecting votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs who sided with the saffron party, the Election Commission came down heavily on the unethical practices in politics, which has become a “creeping new normal of political morality”.
“Democracy thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs — to the exclusion of ethical considerations,” Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat said.
The Commissioner was speaking on the ‘Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms’ organised by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).
The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality. It is this creeping ‘new normal’ of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better election, a better tomorrowOm Prakash Rawat, Election Commissioner
“In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management; strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation etc. are all commended as resourcefulness,” Rawat was quoted by the Indian Express.
The Commissioner’s comments assume significance in the backdrop of recent Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls. Just days ahead of the election on 8 August, the BJP lured as many as six MLAs to desert the Congress party. The Congress then ferried its remaining 44 legislators to a luxury resort in Bengaluru to prevent any further defections. After the move, the Income Tax department searched 60 premises linked to Karnataka Energy Minister D K Shivakumar who was overseeing the stay of these MLAs. The action was heavily criticised that the Centre is using official agencies to target political opponents.
On the day of the election, two rebel Congress MLAs have shown their ballot papers to BJP’s representative at the polling booth, which created a fresh uproar. The EC used its special status to cancel the votes cast by the two lawmakers. However, Congress’s Ahmed Patel managed to win the seat.
At the ADR meet today, Rawat also spoke against the practice of paid news and said that it should be made an electoral offence punishable by two years of imprisonment.