It was never expected to pass off without a hitch given the immense logistics involved. But nevertheless, the Election Commission (EC) has pulled off a competent job of running this mammoth nine-phase elections so far.
Which is why it is a pity that at the fag end, both the main parties have come into collision with the EC.
First, we saw the Congress candidate from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi, standing in a polling booth in violation of the model code of conduct.
Then we had Priyanka Gandhi’s political secretary wandering around near voters apparently talking to them, again something the Congress should have known better than to do. And then comes the mega battle between the EC and the BJP on account of the returning officer in Varanasi denying the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, permission to hold a rally on grounds of security.
While the officer may have had sound reasons to do so, it has raised hackles within the party, which was looking for a big push in the holy city prior to it going to the polls.
There is no doubt that the BJP should have made its plans well in advance. Equally, such decisions should have been conveyed by the returning officer well in time. The die is now cast and the BJP is protesting against what it terms discrimination and demanding the instant removal of the officer.
Mr Modi has called off his proposed Ganga aarti and in an emotional tweet spoke of how a mother like the Ganga knows no politics.
It is not desirable, but inevitable, that the BJP will seek to make political capital out of this. The EC should perhaps have stepped in and made a decision keeping in mind the ground realities. The BJP too could have been more accommodating.
The protest by the BJP is likely to evoke sympathy for its candidate, something that the party will not be averse to. However, given how complex the task of running this election has been, it would be unfortunate if this snowballs into a major controversy marring relations between the EC and the BJP.
Much of the credibility of elections in India is hinged on the impartial conduct of the EC. It would be advisable for the EC and the BJP to sort this out and for the party to get on with its campaigning in the last phase of the polls.
Both the Congress and the BJP, as major national parties, must ensure that they don’t step out of line as far as the EC guidelines are concerned and cast doubts on the intentions of the election watchdog publicly. The credibility of all three is at stake here.