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West Bengal to Ramzan: Yogendra Yadav Speaks on Poll Controversies

Was the BJP’s convenience kept in mind while drafting the 2019 poll schedule? Here’s what Yogendra Yadav said.

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Right after the Election Commission announced the 2019 poll schedule, questions were raised on the commissions’s neutrality as the Opposition alleged that the schedule seemed in line with the BJP’s ‘convenience’.

These questions include how Ramzan was clashing with the last two weeks of voting, the increase in phases of elections conducted in West Bengal and Odisha, and the decision to not conduct Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir while the rest of the country go to polls.

The Quint met political leader and analyst Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj India, who breaks down how each of these concerns show how the immediate impression is that the EC has behaved in a partisan manner.

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Phases of polling have gone up from five to seven in West Bengal and two to four in Odisha. Who does a stretched out voting schedule benefit?

Odisha and West Bengal – now the entire country knows that these are the two states that BJP has its eyes on. If BJP, in comparison to 2014, can improve its hold in any state, then it is only these two states and the north-east. In Odisha, BJP is trying to be number 1 and in West Bengal the BJP is trying to achieve a breakthrough. The spacing of the elections has certain consequences. In Odisha where the elections are being conducted in four phases rather than two, the first effect will be that the PM will be able to conduct his rallies with much more comfort. So, the immediate impression of these actions is that BJP’s convenience has been kept in mind.

Does the argument of Maoist violence stretching polls in Odisha stand?

Odisha is a small state with 21 Lok Sabha seats where Maoist violence is prevalent in a small area. Adjacent to Odisha lies Andhra Pradesh and Telangana where there is greater concern of Maoist violence. Now Andhra Pradesh has 25 Lok Sabha seats and Telangana has 17 seats, all of which will vote in one phase, while Odisha which has 21 Lok Sabha seats will vote in 4 phases. Why is that?

West Bengal will now have seven phases of elections versus five. Comment?

While there is history of poll violence in West Bengal, they could have still conducted the election in 3-4 phases. However stretching it for seven phases is staggering the polls.

Why not conduct state polls along with the Lok Sabha polls in Jammu and Kashmir?

Maybe the reason is that the Jammu and Kashmir admin and security forces are not in a position to handle the political activity that will  stem from organising the Assembly elections. This won’t look good for the government of India. The PMO might not want to hear this. But why can’t the EC bring it up? Don’t comment on the politics, but say we have got inputs from the state administration that they cannot provide security to conduct Assembly elections in the state. But then why are they not saying it? We do not know.

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People have pointed out issues with the polls clashing with Ramzan. Is that a real concern?

Now the issue can be of two types. Either the states where the Muslim population is more were intentionally going to polls after Ramzan began, or that the seats where the Muslim population is significant, were pushed to the last few phases which clash with Ramzan. However, I checked this out. After checking, we found out this is not correct. The areas where Muslims are in majority, are voting before Ramzan. I think the impression that has been formed and what Opposition parties have said, have said so without thinking or looking at the evidence. This should not be a big deal.

The Election Commission, which is an autonomous body, has kept mum on these concerns and might continue to. Comment?

They are autonomous, that is correct. They are not answerable to the PM of India, that is also correct, but why should they not be answerable to the public of India? For example, when it came to Ramzan, the Election Commission issued a clarification and said they didn’t keep it on Fridays or important religious days – the rest they could not avoid. Like that, explain the rationale behind Odisha and West Bengal as well. This will be beneficial. To think that you are independent and don’t need to respond to people, does not work in a democracy.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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