A group of 81 former civil servants that compromise of defence personnel, judges, academicians and professionals, led by former Delhi Police Commissioner R S Gupta have written to the President of India, Ramnath Kovind expressing concern about another set of former babus casting aspersions on the neutrality of the Election Commission. They have also raised concerns about this lobby trying to influence the Election Commission in taking anti-Modi steps to ‘conform to a particular line of thought and behaviour’.
The letter said that attempts are being made by a group of former babus, headed by Salahuddin Ahmad, retired IAS officer, to discredit the Election Commission.
The letter said, “Slurs being laid against the Election Commission of India, casting aspersions on its neutrality and ability to hold free and fair elections appears to be a part of the larger design to influence its decision making and to make it conform to a particular line of behaviour and thought”.
The letter said that an earlier letter written to the President by the former babus allegest that the Election Commission is going through a crisis of credibility and that it is the prevalent view of the country that its independence has been compromised. However, the letter signed by 81 civil servants says that this view is limited to a “small group of people who may be having a partisan interest in propagating such a view”.
The former civil servants in their letter to the President of India also raised a concern about this ‘partisan group’ pressurising the Election Commission to take anti-Modi steps. The letter said that the very people who have cast aspersions on the Election Commission and doubted its neutrality have succeeded in influencing the EC to ban a biopic that was made by an independent producer. Presumably, the letter was talking about the Vivek Oberoi starrer biopic of PM Narendra Modi that has been banned from release by the Election Commission purportedly, to give all the candidates a “level playing field”.
The letter says that the Election Commission’s decision to ban the biopic came right after the release of the letter by this vested group of people who might have a partisan interest.
According to Deccan Chronicle, the letter also slammed the decision to ban a web series based on the life of Prime Minister Modi. The serial, the letter said, had already aired 5 episodes prior to Model Code of Conduct being set into motion and that banning of that series amounts to a breach of constitutional rights.
“Now, the same retired civil servants, through their open letter to your hon’ble self, are trying to stop a ten-part web series “Modi: A Common Man’s Journey,” of which five episodes have already been screened before the model code of conduct came into effect. This again amounts to a violation of Constitutional rights and depriving certain people of their freedom of expression”, the letter reportedly read.
The group of 81 former civil servants also raised concerns about the letter which raises doubts on EVMs and insists on VVPAT based audit of the election system.
Concluding the letter, the civil servants raised concerns about such letter not serving the democratic process and also on how this group is trying to influence the decision of the Election Commission. They also raise concerns about on whose behest is such a partisan approach being taken.
“We are deeply pained that a few retired civil servants, who should have known better, have chosen to slander the Election Commission and are attempting through such slander, to influence its decisions. It amounts to a smear campaign, designed to weaken India’s well tested constitutional bodies. One wonders on whose behest such a partisan approach is being taken. Needless to say, unfounded allegations and slander campaigns do little to promote the cause of democracy”, the letter reportedly said.
The Election Commission has taken several steps in the recent past that have raised doubts about whether the decision is being influenced. The decisions are, more often than not, viewed as anti-Modi.
EC officials in Maharashtra had recently issued an order directing producers of television serials ‘Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hai’ and ‘Tujhse Hai Raabta’, aired on &TV and Zee TV channels, to remove content that deemed to benefit the “prospects of a political party” by praising government schemes like Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana. Before this decision by the EC, Congress had objected to these serials.
A citizen had printed “No gifts, please vote for PM Modi” on his wedding card and had got a notice from the Election Commission too raising concerns about the Election Commission encroaching on citizen’s fundamental rights. The Election Commission had also served a show cause notice to ABVP students for a book launch that was organised in JNU claiming poll code violation. The ABVP had planned to launch #ModiAgain by author Aabhas Maldahiyar and Saffron Swords by Manoshi Sinha Rawal on 15th April. The event has now been cancelled.
The same Election Commission had served a show cause notice to officials for banning the release of a book on the Rafale Deal for violation of the MCC. However, the ban was subsequently revoked and the book was released.