Challenges for ECI

Ensuring free, fair and safe elections an onerous task

Challenges for ECI

WITH the model code of conduct coming into force in five states, the Election Commission of India (ECI) faces the twin challenges of conducting safe elections amid the Covid surge and providing a level playing field for all stakeholders. - File photo

WITH the model code of conduct coming into force in five states, the Election Commission of India (ECI) faces the twin challenges of conducting safe elections amid the Covid surge and providing a level playing field for all stakeholders. In a welcome move, the poll panel has made it mandatory for various political parties to upload details of candidates with pending criminal cases on their respective websites. The parties will also have to explain why they are fielding such ‘tainted’ persons in the Assembly polls. In August last year, the Supreme Court had held nine parties, including the ruling BJP and JD(U) in Bihar, guilty of contempt and fined eight of them for violating its February 2020 order on the publication of criminal antecedents of their candidates. Notwithstanding the court’s intervention, it is the ECI’s job to ensure compliance with the SC order and penalise those who fail to do so.

Keeping in view the Omicron spread, the ECI has banned physical rallies and roadshows till January 15, while laying greater stress on digital and virtual modes of campaigning. A decision on revoking or extending the ban will be taken on the basis of the prevailing situation. Several Opposition parties have asked the poll panel to keep in mind the glaring digital divide, especially in Uttar Pradesh, while reviewing its move on physical rallies. Depriving candidates of opportunities to reach out to voters who have no access to mobile phones and the Internet goes against the spirit of democracy. Also, the hegemony of a couple of parties in the digital space will give them an unfair edge over their rivals.

Considering the relative mildness of Omicron, rallies and roadshows should be allowed with reasonable restrictions. Ensuring adherence to Covid protocols will be an onerous task for every party. There will obviously be violations pertaining to mask-wearing and social distancing. What the ECI can do is focus on the major infringements and take strict action against offenders who pay no heed to repeated warnings. Hate speech and fake news will also test the mettle of the poll panel, which surely has its hands full. 

Tribune Shorts


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