THE Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering state and national elections. It says so right there on its website.
The EC has removed the Police Commissioner of Kolkata and other senior officers from their posts, with immediate effect. The EC has transferred the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh for not complying with its orders to remove three police officers. The EC has filed an FIR against Prakash Ambedkar for threatening to send the EC to jail for two days if his government came to power. The EC has objected to the lyrics of the campaign song of the Congress party. All of this happened during the three days I was away from this blog.
That is how you expect the Election Commission to behave: alert and vigilant in the cause of ensuring free and fair elections. Tough. Proactive. No nonsense. Zero tolerance for any violation of the Model Code of Conduct… But then again….
The Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog violates the MCC. The EC “conveys its displeasure” and advises “caution in the future”. Kalyan Singh, Governor of Rajasthan, shills for the BJP. The EC asks for a report. It finds that Singh has violated the MCC, and forwards its report to the President of India. Who in turn forwards it to the Home Ministry for “action” — and that is the last we have heard of that. Adityanath refers to “Modiji ka sena“, a clear violation of the EC’s order that the armed forces cannot be used for poll propaganda. The EC suggests that Adityanath should be “more careful in future“. A BJP MP is caught on candid camera talking of how much it costs to bribe voters. The EC has asked for an explanation. The EC says an earlier Modi program flogging Operation Shakti did not violate the letter of the Model Code of conduct, “but we can’t say it about the spirit of the code.” (Emphasis mine)
So what happens when the EC so blatantly plays favourites? Transgressions multiply. Adityanath says the Congress is infected with the “Muslim virus” — another violation. Varun Gandhi promises voters in Sultanpur that his envelope will reach them, even if he doesn’t — another clear violation. (Besides, the ED and IT authorities who have been raiding opposition leaders from Kanyakumari to Kashmir should be interested in finding out what money this is and where it came from — but don’t hold your breath.) Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi uses the same “Modiji ki sena” trope the EC asked Adityanath to be “careful” about. It doesn’t even cause a ripple. Oh and while on this, a TN anti-corruption crusader filed an affidavit with the EC that he has 1.76 lakh crore in cash — and the affidavit was accepted, proving just how much scrutiny there is, or isn’t.
That is how you do it, folks — just keep piling abuse on abuse, safe in the knowledge that the watchdog body — the “chowkidars” of the election process — will let you get away with murder while doing all it can to target your opponents. And while on the EC, and abuse:
Money was seized from the convoy of the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, one day before Modi was to campaign in the state. A Business Standard report says that on average, Rs 67 crore is being seized every single day from various parts of the country; a total of Rs 1460 crore worth of money, liquor and drugs has been seized as of April 1, and a bulk of that from the dry state of Gujarat, world famous as the birthplace of the ‘Gujarat Model’.
If demonetisation was intended to rid the country of unaccounted money, where is all this cash coming from? Just one of the many questions that arise from this flood of illicit cash corrupting the election system; another is electoral bonds, but I’ll get to that another day.
HARKING back to Adityanath’s comment about Modi’s army for a moment, MoS for Home Affairs VK Singh had one of those rare moments when the better angels of his nature prompted him to protest the UP CM’s comment.
“Which army are we talking about?” Singh told BBC in an apparent reference to Adityanath’s remarks. “Are we talking about the Indian Army, or the army of political workers [of the BJP]? I do not know the reference here. If somebody says the Indian Army is the army of Modi, he is not only wrong, but a traitor. The Indian Army belongs to India, not to any political party.”
Give the former army man a round of applause. A very brief round of applause, because no sooner were the words out of his mouth than wisdom dawned. In the BJP, you don’t go against the official party line — which is that Modi personally led the Indian strike on Balakot (Modi ne ghar mein ghuske maara, the PM keeps parroting on the stump, pompously referring to himself in the third person). And so Singh backtracked rapidly:
“BBC Hindi has done just that for which I had coined the word ‘presstitute’. I have a record of what I said. It appears the reporter was asleep or he deliberately cut and paste to frame a false statement. Well done, …. (journalist’s name) — how much money did you get??”
Firstly, he didn’t coin the word. Secondly, he uses the pejorative to slur a reporter doing his job, and adds libel to injury by suggesting that the reporter took money to twist the minister’s words.
How do you say this politely?: The former army officer is a coward, without the courage of even his brief convictions. He is also an idiot who hasn’t figured out that you cannot claim to be “misquoted” in a video interview.
Adding an unnecessary coat of irony, there is this: TimesNow reports that VK Singh, in his capacity as MoS for Home Affairs, has dismissed the EC notice against Adityanath.
THE Enforcement Directorate has asked the CBI Court to issue notice to Republic TV in connection with the alleged leak (Or, to use Republic-speak, “accessed”) of a chargesheet filed in the Augusta Westland case. To what point? Republic is funded by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar and backed by other BJP worthies; the PM and every member of the Cabinet treats it like their personal mouthpiece. The “leak” is clearly calculated to provide the BJP campaigners something to talk about, another “issue” to flog, a deflection from issues relating to their own governance.
Is there a scam? Most likely. But there is also a scandal: the BJP raises this, and other scams, when campaigning for elections and drags its feet when it comes to investigations and prosecution — clearly because they would rather have the issue, than produce a resolution.
I JUST got back after some fairly intensive travel, and am still catching up, making sense of all that’s been going on while I was on the road. So for now, I’ll leave you with a few links in no particular order, and pick up regular service tomorrow.
- 88 lakh taxpayers did not file returns in the financial year 2016-2017 — the year of demonetisation. It was just 8.56 lakh the previous fiscal. This is the highest increase in almost two decades since 2000-01, tax officials said.
- Various official agencies have come up with grim figures about the employment situation in the country, and these reports have been consistently suppressed by the government (an earlier post goes into details). The government, in a bid to cover up for its failures, said that MUDRA was the preferred source for employment data, and claimed that crores of new jobs had been created under the scheme. Turns out even that does not have good news for the government, so now the MUDRA numbers won’t be released either, at least not until after the polls.
- In Satna, three-time BJP MP Ganesh Singh is questioned about employment. He leaves the venue, rather than answer. Think of this in connection with another fact: Narendra Modi is the only PM in living memory to never address a press conference, or let himself in for the kind of town-hall format where he could face unscripted questions.
- On the stump, Modi claims that because of his chowkidari, there have been no terrorist attacks during the last five years. He is, as always, lying.
- The Allahabad High Court asks the UP government whether it intends to arrest those accused in the Unnao rape case. Props to the court for asking tough questions, but are you kidding me? Elections round the corner, and the UP government — the Adityanath government — is going to arrest a BJP thug? Good luck with that.
- You read stories of how there is a Modi wave, and a Priyanka power surge, and how this politician joining that party has changed the balance in this or that state, and so on. And on. Spare a moment of your time to this: 42% of India is now officially drought-hit; close to 500 million people are affected. Do you suppose these people care a flying fuck for waves and tsunamis and the rubbish the commentariat carries on about endlessly?
- LK Advani recently wrote a blogpost — and sections of the liberals had a collective orgasm. Not because his comments could be seen as a mild rebuke of Modi, but because that is where we are: desperate for any voice to validate our own criticisms of the BJP and its leader, and if these voices belong to the BJP’s senior leaders now turned apostate, so much the better. Not all are so enamoured though — Ruchir Joshi’s comments on ‘leaders who ignited a deadly fire’, and Ramachandra Guha on Advani’s bitter legacy, are worth reading for perspective.
- In Rajasthan, a BJP candidate says he will ensure that there will be no police interference in cases of child marriage. In other words, a BJP candidate promises that there will be no consequences to committing a crime.
- Subramanian Swamy says Rahul Gandhi has four passports; that one of his names is Raul Vinci, and that he has a chapel at home. #justsaying
- Arun Jaitley gets into the debate on the denial of tickets to Advani, MM Joshi, and Speaker of the Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, and justifies it in terms of the party’s policy that no tickets will be given to those over 75. Fair enough. Except that in 2014, when both were given tickets to contest for the BJP, Advani was 87 and Joshi, 80.
- A TN Ninan column celebrates the fact that the Congress manifesto comes down clearly in favour of individual liberties.
- Mihir Sharma on how, against the odds, it is the Congress that has come up with thoughtful proposals while the BJP indulges in blatant communal rhetoric, and what this means for Elections 2019.
- I’ve been saying this for ever (or at least since I restarted this blog and began focussing on the elections). Here is Shekhar Gupta on the game board of Elections 2019, making the point that this time, Modi is going up against 20 strong regional leaders. The point Gupta misses out on is that Modi has been doing his damndest to get out of this trap, and failing — and the reason for this desperation is that Modi’s best chance of winning is if he can convert this election into him versus one opponent he can demonise and vilify, rather than get sucked into a series of sapping skirmishes across the length and breadth of the country.
- Remember an earlier post where I had discussed the meaning of the word “scheme”? Here is another one on the same theme — Modi’s grand ‘adopt a village’ scheme for MPs. Announced as a gamechanger, forgotten once it had been milked for publicity.
- And to end where I began, here is Mitali Saran on the role of the EC in this election cycle.