Follow Us:

‘Winnability’ a sin?

Editorial |

The bold headlines were seemingly unrelated, yet in their contrast they projected a grim reality. The announcement of the BJP president of a game-plan aimed at securing some 360 Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 poll did not quite gel with an Election Commissioner’s lament about the “creeping new norms of political morality”.

True that no reference to Amit Shah, nor his “blueprint”, was made by Om Prakash Rawat when addressing a poll-focused think-tank, but it requires no pundit to perceive his observations in the context of the Election Commission being subjected to intense ministerial pressure when formulating its position on two dubious votes during the justconcluded elections to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.

“Poaching” was among the many “un-acceptables” that Rawat mentioned in a speech widely viewed as evidence of the Commission’s reasserting the independence for which it had earned much admiration recently. It would, in normal course, be a tall order for the BJP to increase its tally from 282 to 360, giving rise to apprehensions that its targeting of 150 seats it had not won three years ago could trigger another round of the polarisation which is a hallmark of Shah’s “masterly management” ~ something in sharp contrast with the Prime Minister emphasis on sabka saath sabka vikas.

Even without the Gujarat backdrop there was uplifting relevance to the thrust of Rawat’s presentation. “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”. And he continued that “in this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management, the winner can commit no sin, a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt, as also possible criminality.”

Rawat called for “exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, Constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better elections, a better tomorrow.” Well spoken Sir.

The Election Commissioner has thrown a challenge to his own organisation. Nearly three decades back a former Chief Election Commissioner had read the riot act to curb the use of money and muscle in the poll process.

The focus then was on the “mechanics” of vote-mobilisation: what Rawat has now highlighted goes much deeper, and questions the very “philosophy” of contemporary election-management. And actually ridicules puerile efforts like attempting to create an identity-bond with rural voters by stage-managing a rustic ambience at election rallies. As Rahul Gandhi will confirm, the voters are too smart for such gimmicks ~ they carried away his charpoys, but did not reward him with their vote.