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EC-Ashok Chavan ‘deal’ to harass EVM critics?

A month after the arrest of Hari Prasad, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is continuing with its harassment agenda in the missing EVM case used for demonstrating the vulnerabilities of the EVMs and proving the claims of the ECI to be untrue.

A month after the arrest of Hari Prasad, the Election Commission of India (ECI) is continuing with its harassment agenda in the missing EVM case used for demonstrating the vulnerabilities of the EVMs and proving the claims of the ECI to be untrue.

Mukund Lagoo, an activist fighting for tribal rights was arrested 10 days ago and is languishing in jail. Mumbai Police’s application seeking cancellation of Hari Prasad’s bail (apparently drafted by the Election Commission) threatens his arrest again. Mumbai Police are not stopping there. They plan to summon Hari Prasad’s colleagues in NetIndia for questioning. The list is unlikely to stop there.

The series of these actions show the worst form of police terror unleashed against ordinary citizens since the days of emergency imposed in 1975.

While the Election Commission’s desire to ruthlessly oppress EVM critics was evident, what was not clear earlier was the role of the Mumbai police in pursuing this case as if this was the biggest crime ever committed in Mumbai. Obviously, the Mumbai Police were acting under severe pressure from the top.

We have a reasonable explanation for this now.

Election Commission is hearing a complaint against the Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan for allegedly engaging in the electoral malpractice of “paid news” during October 2009 assembly election from Bhokar constituency. “Paid news” refers to publication of news and features in newspapers/ Television in the garb of routine news coverage. The charge against Ashok Chavan is that he did not account for such expenditure in elections.

In India, there is an “expenditure ceiling” of Rs. 1 million per assembly constituency in state elections, which cannot be exceeded as per election rules.

P. Sainath, Rural affairs of the Hindu and a well regarded journalist has documented much of Ashok Chavan’s publicity glitz in the garb of news in his article titled, “Mass media: masses of money?” published on November 30, 2009 http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/article57019.ece

Election Commission is hearing two complaints in this regard, one by Kirit Somiaya, National Secretary of the BJP and another by Dr. Madhav Kinhalkar, a former minister of state for home in Maharastra and an ex-NCP member who lost to Ashok Chavan in last assembly polls as an independent candidate.

Election Commission had rejected Ashok Chavan’s arguments on July 9 represented through his lawyer Abhishek Manusinghvi (Spokesperson, Congress party) that the ECI had no jurisdiction in the matter. See the following link.

EC hears CM’s ‘paid news’ case, acts tough Hindustan Times, July 10

http://www.hindustantimes.com/EC-hears-CM-s-paid-news-case-acts-tough/Article1-570079.aspx

Ever since, the chief minister is under heavy pressure. If the complaint against him is proved to be true – there seems to be a lot of evidence against him in the case – the Election Commission may invoke  its quasi judicial powers to cancel the assembly membership of Ashok Chavan. In one stroke, Chavan would lose his membership and the Congress party would find it imprudent to continue him as chief minister after the charges are proved against him.

Election Commission’s threat of disqualification is hanging over Ashok Chavan’s head. A report published in The Hindu on September 8, 2010 titled “EC to fix date for Chavan’s hearing” quoted unnamed EC sources that “The Election Commission will soon fix a fresh date for hearing Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in the “paid news” controversy”.

That the police probe into the missing EVM case is linked to the pending enquiry against Ashok Chavan becomes obvious from the timing of the action by the Mumbai Police. Mumbai Police took no action on the complaint filed by the District Collector on May 12 in the missing EVM case and the Police action became vigorous only from July onwards when the Election Commission began to hear complaint against the chief minister.

It seems to be a reasonable conclusion that the Mumbai police are acting under the instructions of the chief minister of Maharashtra government to arrest and harass all those linked with the EVM case so that he can satiate the puerile vendetta of the Election Commission against the EVM critics.

Whether the police terror against the EVM critics is part of a quid pro quo deal between the Election Commission and the chief minister of Maharashtra or is a unilateral initiative of the chief minister to propitiate the ECI bosses in a case in which they have taken unusual interest is a moot question.

If such a deal had indeed been struck, either explicitly or otherwise, it raises ethical questions about the conduct of a public body such as the Election Commission. It shows that the rot and decay is manifest in Election Commission as much as in any other public institution in the country.

It does not behove a public institution like the ECI to engage in coercive (may I say blackmail) tactics employed by criminal gangs. Election Commission’s conduct in disposing off the Ashok Chavan case will be keenly watched in the coming weeks.

If the Election Commission lets off the chief minister in the “paid news” complaint lightly, it would be a clear signal that the Election Commission is more interested in settling scores with its critics rather than cleaning up the dirt in Indian elections.

I can be reached at nrao@indianEVM.com


This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 12:38 PM and is filed under THE UGLY FACE OF THE ECI. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “EC-Ashok Chavan ‘deal’ to harass EVM critics?”

  1. Raghavendra Says:

    Keep up the good fight Mr.Narasimha Rao, the people are with you