Dress rehearsal for 2019

The Gujarat State Assembly elections are a dress rehearsal for the far bigger, fiercer and no-holds-barred poll war that the country is going to witness in 2019 when the Lok Sabha elections are held. What is beyond doubt is that this is for the first time that the BJP which has ruled Gujarat for the last 22 years is looks and not sure of itself. This is borne out by the fact that Rahul Gandhi who was pooh-poohed as a ‘pappu’ till the other day, who was lampooned as a lackadaisical and unwilling leader, has suddenly acquired a larger than life image in the eyes of the BJP, judging by its venomous and vitriolic attacks on the Congress President. Till the other day nobody thought he was capable of roping in different caste leaders like Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakore into a broad and inclusive front against the BJP. But that is exactly what has happened – a reality that the BJP cannot ignore or pretend not to take notice of.
Even the impartiality of the Election Commission has been questioned by the Congress which has gone to call it a ‘puppet’ in the hands of the Prime Minister – something that is unheard of. The Congress has pointed out that the EC banned the telecasting of Rahul Gandhi’s interview and asked the police to register FIRs against the channels that did telecast it, while the poll body had refused to take notice of the release of the BJP poll manifesto after the first phase of the polls were held; that it ignored the fact of the Prime Minister making a roadshow in Ahmedabad even after campaigning had ended; and the holding of a press conference at Ahmedabad airport by BJP president Amit Shah. The Congress has called all these as violations of code of conduct. The Prime Minister’s sea-plane flight has also raised a lot of questions: Who owned the aircraft, where did it come from, what was the nationality of the pilot, was he vetted by security agencies, what was the cost of hiring the aircraft and who paid it – the party or the Government, etc.
The future of India as a democratic country depends to a large extent on the impartiality and independence of the Election Commission. Anything that compromises the credibility of the EC is deplorable. The EC must not only be impartial but must be seen by the people to be so. The poll body has to clarify its stand on the questions that the Congress has raised, rather than dismiss them out of hand.

Sunday, 17 December, 2017