‘Senior-Most Leaders Misuse Staggered Polls’: Ex-CEC SY Quraishi
“The appointment system of the EC is very very faulty. We are appointed by the government of the day.”
Editor: Purnendu Pritam
“Personally I feel the EC should be very communicative. Lot more communicative. Communication always helps,” former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi says in light of aspersions being cast on the body’s neutrality.
Quraishi who was CEC between 2010 and 2012 spoke to The Quint about the poll schedule that has raked a debate on whether the body is biased to the ruling party or not.
What is the reason according to you that the Lok Sabha schedule is as staggered?
You'll notice for the last twenty years we have been holding staggered elections only, which means in many phases. Five, six, seven and the last time (2014 Lok Sabha elections) it was nine phases. The one and only reason is the safety of human beings, the voters, the polling parties.
Can we deny that political parties will benefit from a stretched out election schedule?
Well this is true because of the phased elections we are facing a few problems and mostly because between two phases all kinds of rumours start floating which is not good for the election.
Rumours like what?
So-and-so is winning and it is a foregone conclusion. And normally the public reacts this way – if some party is winning they say that we will join the bandwagon.
Are there any other concerns besides rumours?
Basically that and we are not able to enforce the MCC in a phased election because of – again, the same thing – media. Electronic media is available. In one area where the election is happening there is a total ban on campaigning. In the adjoining constituency there is no ban so the leaders know and they are misusing it. Senior-most leaders are misusing it.
Sir, you very rightly pointed out that there are certain ways where political parties will get benefits but considering that here the political party with the most amount of money and resources is the BJP and it is in the central govt, is it right for people to speculate that the EC might be keeping the BJP’s convenience in mind?
In principle this kind of allegation is wrong. It is not that these allegations were not made when the Congress party was in power. Why is it that people are in a position to raise fingers at the integrity of the EC.
There is one fundamental thing that needs to be done that the appointment system of the EC is very, very faulty. We are appointed by the government of the day.
So sir are you saying that the EC does tend to be biased sometimes?
No, I am only talking perception. There is no influence. Not at all. But then there is a fact that people are able to raise fingers. That is also very bad. Actually it puts a very wrong and bad pressure on the EC of the public. If you start making false allegations against me that I must have worked on the pressure of the govt, it hurts. It does not feel good at all.
Why does Odisha have 4 phases of polling, instead of 2 phases, while Andhra Pradesh and Telangana – where the Maoist violence is more acute – have single-phase elections?
I really don't know because one should have full facts before us. Obviously EC has some facts that we do not know. In Odisha's case I have no access to the facts. Surely there must be some reason.
Similarly, why did West Bengal go from having five phases of voting to seven?
For the last many years West Bengal has had many phases. In fact in 2012 or 2013, for TN and WB – they are states of the same size – we did TN in one day and we did WB in five or seven phases. TN had money power and WB had guns and bombs. So that is why same elections at the same time but we handled them differently because the ground realities as per our perception were different.
The EC did come out and issue a clarification about Ramzan clashing with the poll dates. Why couldn’t they do the same with WB and Odisha?
I don't know. You are right actually. Personally, I feel the EC should be very communicative. Lot more communicative. Communication always helps. It is better to explain everything and 9 out of 10 people will be satisfied with the explanation.
And lastly, why not have Jammu and Kashmir state polls along with the Lok Sabha polls?
In Vidhan Sabha the number of candidates is also ten times more. There are six Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, and under the same LS constituency there will be 13-14 Vidhan Sabha constituencies. Now 14 Assembly constituencies per LS constituency and everywhere just 10 candidates, so for one Lok Sabha MP you're going for 15 Vidhan Sabha MLAs and the number of candidates is as many times.
Security has to be provided, PSO, personal security, their homes have to be secure, their offices have to be secure. The security requirements will shoot up many times.
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