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We must reconsider NOTA option in RS polls: SY Quraishi | Opinion

Speculations about the integrity of the Election Commission rose because two of the commissioners were appointed by the ruling BJP and the current CEC was for Gujarat chief secretary while Narendra Modi was CM. Now all these have been proved wrong

opinion Updated: Aug 10, 2017 13:12 IST
Gujarat RS polls,Ahmed Patel,Congress
The Election Commission of India, New Delhi(Mint)

The high intensity drama that was witnessed on Tuesday night in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha raised many questions regarding anti-defection law, NOTA, secrecy of the ballot, and the power and role of the Election Commission in Indian democracy.

Horse-trading and the purchasing of legislatures has been plaguing our democracy for some time now. This was first brought to light when the Congress shipped its MLAs in Gujarat to a resort in Karnataka to prevent poaching of its members by the BJP. The phenomenon was again brought to light on Tuesday when two Congress MLAs voted for the BJP candidate in the elections to Rajya Sabha. They further violated rule 39, code of election rules, 1961, by showing their ballot paper to the BJP agent. Such instances bring to light the problem of horse-trading in Indian politics.

The Election Commission (EC), which is responsible for conducting elections to the Rajya Sabha under Article 324 of the Constitution, gave a commendable judgment by taking a bold step against the culprits and giving a judgment that went against the BJP. Amid speculation about the integrity of the EC by certain sections of the media given the fact that two of the commissioners were appointed by the BJP and the CEC was the former chief secretary of Gujarat under the then chief minister Narendra Modi, the judgment proves once again the independence and separation of the EC from the political establishment, and hence its importance in ensuring the smooth functioning of the Indian democracy.

Another issue that came up was that of NOTA. The Congress conveniently raised the issue with the SC three-and-a-half years after its introduction in Rajya Sabha elections to suit its convenience. I must, however, say that I feel this issue needs some reconsideration just like the election of the office of president and vice president have been kept out of NOTA.

It may be worthwhile to recall a major horse-trading event that the EC encountered in March 2012 when I was the CEC. There were reports of blatant abuse of money power in the election to two Rajya Sabha seats in Jharkhand. When the EC enforcement team caught a vehicle of a candidate carrying over Rs 2 crore, we decided to take an unprecedented step of countermanding the election.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard BJP leader Arun Jaitley comment that though the EC decision had hit one of his own party candidates, it was the most appropriate decision.

Even senior BJP leader LK Advani wrote a blog --- Kudos to SY Quraishi --- for a decision that strikes at horse-trading like never before. I’m sure the leadership will take a similar view in this case and commend the EC decision.

SY Quraishi is former chief election commissioner of India

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 10, 2017 13:12 IST