The apex court’s uncharacteristically ambivalent position on increasing the use of VVPAT machines during the upcoming poll does little to enhance the authority and credibility of the Election Commission of India ~ nor does it contribute much to its stated objective of raising the satisfaction levels of the key participants in the exercise, the contesting parties.
The neither here nor there order from CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna is unconvincing, to put it mildly, at a point in time of unprecedented fierceness in political rivalry, which has dragged so many institutions of the democracy into a quagmire. Had their Lordships been as confident about the incorruptibility of the Electronic Voting Machines ~ as Nirvachan Sadan contends ~ they ought to have forcefully rejected the claims of 21 Opposition parties and directed them to desist from being obstructionist.
Yet by ordering a less-than token increase in the number of VVPAT devices the court has permitted a continuance of the “no smoke without fire” theory. The worst suspicions will have been confirmed if more VVPATS are deployed in a subsequent poll.
On such a critical query the citizen was certainly entitled to a more definitive judicial verdict: constraint of time is a tame excuse. Or, at least that could have been mentioned to raise hopes for the future. A clean poll process is the citizen’s entitlement, he is sick of the authoritarian attitude of those wielding power.
Faith in the EVMs, or a lack of it, is not the sole reason why the Election Commission has come under a cloud. A group of former civil servants have drawn the attention of the President to what they insist is a “crisis of credibility” in the EC and expressed “anguish” over its “pusillanimity” in tackling alleged violations of established norms by the ruling party.
They appealed to the Commission, through Rashtrapati Bhawan, to conduct itself in a manner where its “independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are not questioned”. The 60- odd signatories in the communication to Mr Ram Nath Kovind, they included a range of respected civil servants, said “we are distressed to note the misuse, abuse and blatant disregard of the model code of conduct by the ruling party at the Centre and the ECs pusillanimity in coming down with a heavy hand on these violations”.
Among the specifics they mentioned were the Prime Minister’s announcing the ASAT test, an earlier call to the EC to put biopics on hold, the NaMo channel, Yogi Adityananth’s Modi Ji ki Sena and they flayed the “deliberate attempt to mislead the general public, apart from damaging the traditions of the armed forces as apolitical formations.”
Words that the Supreme Commander would find hard to ignore. Maybe those ex-officials too will soon be slammed for the position they have taken.