EC staff: Mere onlookers?
Much of the popular expectation rides on the shoulders of observers appointed by the Election Commission to facilitate free and fair poll. But going by the experience of two rounds of Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, how far has the current lot of ‘monitors’ been able to deliver the goods? HT spoke to a cross-section of leading citizens to find out the popular perception:FAIR ENOUGH
Special observers are the eyes and ears of the Election Commission (EC). It is their responsibility to see if the elections are conducted in a proper manner. It is widely accepted that the EC appoints only the best of officials as special observers. I don't see any reason to doubt their integrity, though this is also true that they cannot make everybody happy.
Shivanand Tiwary, national spokesman, RJD
We are not at all satisfied with the working of the election observers in Bihar. “Yeh log laghbag mookdarshak ban kar rah gaye hain (They have virtually become silent observers). The manner in which they have functioned in Chapra indicates that they have become part of the state’s present set-up. Election observers should be vigilant and impartial.
Gopal Narayan Singh, state president, BJP
We have always cast aspersions on free and fair polls in Bihar. We have reported everything in advance to these observers. Yet no action was taken. The observers were not at all effective. Inki ek dam nahi chali (They could not have their way). The forces were deployed as wished by the returning officers.
Nand Kishore Yadav, state convenor, NDA
The election observers are a burden on the state exchequer. They are absolutely useless. I remember meeting some senior officials of the Election Commission (EC) before the polls. They told us that Bihar was given some of the most efficient officials as poll observers. If these are the best the EC has, only God knows about the rest. The entire exercise of having special election observers is a colossal waste of resources.
Bijendra Prasad Yadav, state president, JD (U)
What were they doing here? Kahi koi karwai nahi hai. Kahi koi effect nahi dikh raha hai (They have done nothing, taken no action). We fail to understand what was their intention behind coming here.
Santosh Sahar, CPI-ML (Liberation) leader
The election Commission observers have done good work. The polls have so far been free and fair. They have been very effective in controlling unfair means.
HK Verma, chief spokesman, Bihar Congress
Observers come to various Lok Sabha constituencies on a pleasure trip without bothering much about election or democracy. In hindsight everything appears to be a mere window-dressing. Flagrant (mis)use of money, caste and muscle power by candidates in Bihar is not conducive for holding free and fair elections. The other way is to impose President’s rule before elections to ensure free conduct of polls. The fact is that when the administrative machinery is with the ruling party, free and fair elections cannot be held.
BN Agrawal, former V-C, Nalanda Open University, Patna
Electoral malpractices in the first two rounds of Lok Sabha polls have been unprecedented in Bihar. Presence of observers was a farce, as ministers were seen visiting booths which was unthinkable earlier. The government is so involved in elections that the criminalisation of politics has given way to criminalisation of power structure. In Bihar, we are faced with a situation where notorious criminals are well entrenched in the power structure. The EC must work out conventions to neutralise undue influences in order to ensure free and fair elections.
SB Sahay, former Bihar DGP, Patna
I feel that observers quite often allow malpractices to go on unhindered. They ought to order repolling at booths where malpractices occur. The role of observer, by and large, has not been as effective as it should be. The only way to prevent malpractices or violence is to catch the action on video camera. Electronic media footage is treated as evidence even in India after amendment to the IPC/ CrPC and Evidence Act. Hence on the basis of media coverage, the EC would know where things have gone wrong in a particular constituency.
Shubho Sanyal, lawyer, Patna High Court