If Election Commission ever took a side, it was always that of ‘seculars’ and communists

The other day, I was reading some standard reporting on the recently concluded elections in Gujarat:

”….has electrified Congress workers, who are stunned to see him marshalling huge crowds in BJP bastions. The new Congress chief is raising issues on the BJP’s poor governance…” 

Sorry, I lied. This is not reporting from Gujarat elections 2017, but from Gujarat elections of 2002. The person drawing huge crowds in BJP bastions and raising issues of governance here is Shankersinh Vaghela, then candidate for Gujarat CM from the Congress Party.

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As you can see, the standard reporting on Gujarat elections has not changed much over the years. Most likely, neither will the final result, which will come out on Monday.

But the one thing that surely has changed between 2002 and 2017 is the stance of ‘secular’ forces over the role of the Election Commission of India.

For the moment, we’ll just sidestep all the laughable EVM complaints and assorted reports of EVMs connecting via Bluetooth or baring their fangs or catching fish or whatever. In this article, we will focus on the other heap of complaints from ‘secular’ forces about the conduct of the Election Commission, apparently from delaying the announcement of Gujarat election dates to letting Modi do a ‘road show’ after casting his vote in Ahmedabad the other day.

You can hear the entire litany of complaints here in the sweet monotone that is Ravish Kumar’s voice.

One wonders why the BJP would bother with small tricks such as sneaking in a roadshow in Ahmedabad on voting day when it has already rigged the EVMs. But anyway…

So, what’s the first big complaint here against the Election Commission? That there was a delay in announcing the date of the election, that is to say, why did the Election Commission wait until Oct 25 to announce the polling dates? Why so late? Was the Election Commission giving extra time to the BJP government to make populist promises?

Okay, so when were the Gujarat election dates announced in 2002? Was it before or after Oct 25? Well, in 2002, the election dates were declared on Oct 28 [pdf].

So, does Oct 28 come before or after Oct 25? See, but according to liberals, the Election Commission delaying the polls deliberately was supposed to be a good thing in 2002. Because back then, as Outlook’s Darshan Desai explains so eloquently, every day of delay in Gujarat elections (2002) equals “one Hindutva vote lost” for Modi.

Who can forget how then Election Commissioner James Michael Lyngdoh was hailed as hero for delaying the Gujarat elections in 2002?

In the following panel, I have presented for comparison the views of one of India’s foremost (and allegedly numero uno) political analysts/psephologists on delaying Gujarat election announcement in 2002 vs 2017.

Yogendra Yadav's flip flop on Election Commisison

See if you can spot the difference. In other words, a decision by the Election Commission is considered good or bad purely depending on whether political “analysts” expect it to hurt or help the BJP.

And now the other complaint is about how the Election Commission came down with an FIR against some innocent channels for showing Rahul ji’s interview a day before the second phase of Gujarat elections. And how the Election Commission isn’t acting against PM Modi for doing a roadshow in Ahmedabad on Dec 14.

Where were these people when last month the Election Commission prevented BJP from so much as describing their opponent as “Pappu” in their campaign ads? Did the EC act on Akhilesh Yadav’s “Gujarat ke gadhe” remark during UP elections earlier this year? You can call someone “gadhe” but not “Pappu”?

Actually, this is what happens when liberals get so used to getting their way with everything for 70 years that even the tiniest slap on the wrist feels like a grave injustice.

I’ll show you now what *real* unfairness looks like. I’ll show you what are the *real* low points of the Election Commission of India. How about this one?

Election Commission changers rules to help CPM

That’s from August 2016. You see the CPI(M) was rejected so badly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections that it no longer met the criteria set by the Election Commission to keep its status as a “national party.”

But nothing to worry. After two years of deliberation, Scroll reports that:

The Election Commission notified a change in its rules on Monday allowing a review of a political party’s national party status after two successive elections and not after every poll as is the present case.

Sweet! If you get rejected by the people, the rules will be changed to give you one extra chance. You got nothin’ to worry about because the Election Commission has got your back.

The best part is that this isn’t even the first time the EC was watching out for our friends in the CPI(M). During the 1999 elections that brought Atalji to power, the CPI(M) had messed up just as well. The CPI(M) got rejected by the people so badly that it stood to lose its National Party status after 1999 Lok Sabha polls. You’ll never guess what happened next.

Election Commission order gives hopes to CPM

Of course. The EC amended the criteria for being a National Party so that the CPI(M) could get back in.

Presumably that is NOT one of the lows of the Election Commission of India as per our secular intellectuals. Repeatedly kicking the people’s verdict in the teeth and changing the rules to let CPI(M) keep its status as a “National Party.”

Now, here is what privilege looks like. While the CPI(M) showed up smiling to Nirvachan Sadan after every Lok Sabha poll and walked out with special new tailor made rules just for their benefit, there was someone else who was running around the EC office for another reason.

It was the BJP. In 2007, just before the Uttar Pradesh elections, there was some campaign CD made at some level in the party. The EC inspected the contents and felt they were ‘communal.’

BANG! The Election Commission came down on the BJP like a ton of bricks. The Election Commission actually threatened to cancel the registration of the BJP as a political party! 

Worse, the hearing on whether to cancel the BJP’s registration was being held in the presence of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who at that time was under investigation for receiving funds from a certain political party!

One party, the CPI(M), goes around smugly with like 10 MPs and the rules change magically every time to make sure they can keep their special elevated status as a “National Party” despite repeated rejection from the people. Meanwhile, there is another, the BJP, which had over 130 Lok Sabha MPs, but was running from pillar to post to merely keep their status as a political party!

Presumably, that’s NOT a low in the history of the Election Commission, according to allegedly numero uno political analysts. Ha!

That’s the thing with privilege and sense of entitlement, you don’t realize when it’s happening to you. You take your elevated status for granted and don’t notice how others around you are being treated.

Then one day, things change just a little and the other guy suddenly gets a little something.  You suddenly feel this extreme sense of unfairness, as if the entire universe is conspiring against you.

Get well soon, dear ‘secular’ establishment.

Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.

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