Role of Election Commission

The Election Commission has announced that polling for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly will be held on November 9 but the poll results will be announced after 40 days, on December 18, so that the Himachal results do not influence voters in Gujarat where Assembly polls are due to be held within 15 days of the Himachal elections. The EC was expected to announce the poll dates of both the Assemblies on the same day. But it has not done so. The Congress has alleged that the EC did not announce the Gujarat polls simultaneously because the BJP had put pressure on it to keep the announcement on hold till October 16 because Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to address an election rally in Gujarat on that date where he is expected to announce some schemes for Gujarat ahead of the elections. The Congress charge is, on the face of it, quite plausible. 
The role of the Election Commission in a parliamentary democracy is as important in ensuring that the polls are free and fair and reflective of the will of the people as that of the judiciary in protecting the citizenry from arbitrary and unconstitutional acts and decisions of the Executive. It was the highly controversial and now almost-forgotten former Chief Election Commissioner T. N. Seshan who had asserted that the Election Commission was not the Election Commission of the Government of India but the Election Commission of India. People expect the EC to be impervious to political pressures from any quarters, especially the ruling party. If the EC loses credibility with the people, it will only weaken the foundations of parliamentary democracy.
Also, delaying the publication of the results of an Assembly poll by nearly a month and a half, on the specious plea that it may influence the voters of another State, is untenable. But the EC has been doing it with impunity for years. A statutory provision is now required to fix a time limit for the EC to announce poll results after the counting is over. If elections in several States are held over a few months, can the EC withhold declaring the result of the polls held in the first State three or four months earlier till all the elections have been held? Will it not be a travesty of democracy? The EC should always bear it in mind that it is not only necessary for it to be impartial and above political pulls and pressures, but must be seen to be so.

Sunday, 15 October, 2017