It could not have been sheer coincidence: maybe a case of inaccurate, out of context reporting.
Yet Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s issuing a clean bill of health to the Election Commission for its conduct of the just-concluded poll is certain to raise eyebrows. For it is not just the Congress and other Opposition parties across the country ~ Mamata Banerjee had been more than just “vocal” in West Bengal ~ that have accused Nirvachan Sadan of capitulating; even a section of the BJP leadership has questioned the manner in which the polls were supervised.
As a former President, Mr Mukherjee could not have been expected to join in the criticism, least of all at a function to mark the release of a book, yet he must be fully aware of prevailing political realities and for him to say the poll was “perfectly” managed would invite criticism of a widely respected Elder Statesman for over-stepping his brief. More so when it is now out in the open that the Commission is a house divided over the granting of clean chits to the BJP leadership: the outcome of the row over the non-recording of minutes of dissent is yet to be determined.
So did Mr Mukherjee jump the gun by praising the work of the three-member panel? There was no immediate reaction from the Congress and like-minded parties, no doubt the BJP and its NDA allies will hail or exploit Mr Mukherjee’s “certificate”.
Will the seasoned political veteran have the grace to clarify a position that lends itself to much “loaded” speculation ~ perhaps even within his personal family circle? There is no doubt that as someone who has witnessed, and experienced, the unfolding of much political turmoil over the decades Mr Mukherjee would view matters in an overall historic perspective, and thus laud the role of the EC in strengthening Indian democracy.
Yet “immediate” realities cannot be ignored for it was not any history lesson he was teaching. Without delving into the murky waters into which the EC is now floundering, it would only be fair to opine that the former President would have done well to remain aloof. It would indeed be unfortunate if his name was dragged into the contemporary mud-slinging, and little point in subsequently trying to apportion blame for who “started” it.
Yet such is the no-holdsbarred atmosphere in which the prevailing “debate” is taking place that an untarnished image is unlikely to emerge. One obvious lesson of the faux pas ~ or was it deliberate? ~ is that people who held high places must always measure their comments. They, unlike contemporary players, have no need to bask in the limelight.
And would be well advised not to, even inadvertently, risk controversy ~ even if authors believe it would promote sales. For very few others would agree that the current election was “perfect”.