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Protective gear

The Election Commission’s decision to switch off poll-related info on TV suggests a new stage in its paranoia, writes Ishan Chaudhuri.

india Updated: Apr 15, 2009 22:47 IST

The Election Commission makes me so nostalgic of the good old days when there was just one television channel, Doordarshan. Barring Charlie Chaplin short features every Friday, the conveyor belt of songs of Chitrahaar/Chitramala and the ‘late night’ airings of ‘good cinema’, the programmes were drab at best, and bad advertisements for interior decoration at worst.

So how does the EC make me remember those days? Well, the commission has said that television channels can’t air anything that can influence voters in areas going to polls 48 hours before polling starts.

So have the wise gentlemen on the commission blocked out any informative programmes on Orissa all across India as that state goes to the polls today? Or are Oriya voters scattered across the country barred from tuning into any Oriya programme on TV — lest even a Oriya movie subtly reminds them of why it’s been good or not so good under the chief ministership of Naveen Patnaik.

It was last year that the EC riders came into force when Section 126 of the Representation of People’s Act was used to stop exit polls on TV. The logic, perhaps rather logically, is 1) that if you hear that a party is cited to win in one phase of elections, you’ll go and vote for the likely ‘winner’; 2) if you hear that the party you support is trailing in another phase of polls, you’ll actually make that extra effort to come out and vote for it when your turn comes. In either case, the EC felt that the ‘psychological blindness’ that’s part and parcel of free and fair elections goes out of the window. But switching off election info might suggest a new stage in EC paranoia.

I think that our worthies with the rulebook could ensure that voters, 48 hours before they go out to vote, also don’t read anything about politics, talk with anyone about politics, and certainly don’t think about the elections before they actually vote.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the EC quietly insisted on having the Indian Premier League take place during elections. So that before voting, all our minds are far away from anything suggesting elections.