Poll exercise over; lapses by ECI? 

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There is no influence like the influence of habit.

  • Gilbert Parker

With the seventh phase of polling for the 17th general election coming to an end on Sunday, the anxious wait is now for May 23 –the counting day. The entire election process, which got underway with the first phase of polling on April 11, was spread over six weeks. This time voting percentage is 3% higher than the 2014 polls which points that this election is not a wave-less one. Saying that Modi wave has vanished may be politically incorrect as Modi factor is the dominating one in this season. It may be weaker in comparison to 2014 — but it still exists. On the otherhand, though unity among the Opposition parties could not be achieved before the elections, the same is likely to be attempted after the results, if the results throw a hung Lok Sabha. There is contradiction whether the Congress should be a part of the non-BJP coalition or not. There is an anti-Modi wave but it seems to be less strong due to opposition’s failure to energise it politically across the nation. If half of the task is being done by the opposition, the rest is completed by Modi himself to make the Modi factor more powerful in this election.

What forced the Election Commission of India to stretch the election exercise into a six-week affair is unclear. Given the absence of a rationale for such a prolonged schedule, doubts were raised whether it was designed to help Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaign in the widest possible manner. That was the first instance of the EC’s impartiality and integrity coming under doubt during this election season. The EC certainly has absolute powers to see that there was level playing field and elections are held in a free and fair manner. But the 2019 elections will go down in the history as mismanaged elections. From the first phase until the last, not a single stage has been without a slew of complaints about the functioning of the ECI. A series of lapses has put a question mark over the credibility for the commission. The Opposition has repeatedly accused the Constitutional body of favouring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to the extent that Congress president Rahul Gandhi ,in one of his television interviews, said even the seven-phase election schedule favoured the BJP. The Congress submitted more than 10 complaints to the EC against Prime Minister Modi and the watchdog disposed of them without sending a single notice to the PM. Even former chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi termed it a “pity” that the EC needed the Supreme Court to remind it of the vast powers granted to it under Article 324 of the Constitution.

There is no denying that 2019 elections have been different if one compares with the past elections.  Use of inappropriate words during campaign and spreading of misinformation via different media have made 2019 polls unprecedented. The question remains who would form the next government? All depends on the final outcome on May 23.

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