By Dr Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Elections are scheduled in five northern Indian states and the campaign is in full swing and Omicron, a variant of the corona, rivals political speed and even threatens to derail party plans. The Omicron threat is considered a major health threat. The high courts of Allahabad and Uttarakhand have suggested that the Election Commission of India (ECI) consider postponing elections in the respective states. It is possible that other high courts in the state will issue similar directives in the coming days. Opposition parties, on the one hand, criticize governments for their failure to contain the spread of the virus and are also demanding elections be held in accordance with the EC statement. Omicron’s soaring rise, directives from the judiciary and conflicting positions from political parties are causing the ECI to reflect on its position as the constitutional body responsible for the conduct of elections in the country.
The ECI was also faced with this dilemma in 2021 and proceeded to hold elections in Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Assam despite criticism from the person responsible for the second wave of Covid19, although the facts do not not support such criticisms that the EC felt sticking to the constitutional obligation is better. Around this time, the Covid19 outbreak and second wave effect began in Maharashtra, Kerala and Delhi, where there had been no elections. Omicron’s latest footprint graph shows cases of the new variant are low in the poll to Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, where a campaign to high decibel and crowd gatherings are already underway. States, Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi, Rajasthan, where there is no election campaign are high on Omicron and this thwarts the link between elections and crown spread.
The constitutional obligation to conduct elections conferred on central and state electoral commissions and judicial interventions in the conduct of elections oblige them to act in a manner different from their own assessment. The case of Uttar Pradesh where the state electoral panel to delay the campaign the elections of the civic bodies were not accepted by the high court of this state. Despite the state’s electoral panel’s commitment to conduct the elections by the end of May 2021, the High Court ordered the elections to be held by April 30. were appointed at the end of the five-year term of the elected body. It is a fact that Article 243-E mandated such an election as pointed out by the petitioner and that the high court agreed with it and forced Adityanadh to lead the elections of local bodies and to enact it. take responsibility.
The pandemic election debate has been around ever since the Chinese-born crown made its presence in India and India’s economic and health situation was hit. However, India has held more than 25 types of elections in India during the pandemic period. They include elections to state assemblies, through elections to parliament and state, as well as local urban and rural bodies. These are all carried out after consultation with political parties. Each time one party or the other preferred the postponement of the elections invoking the covid and it started with the RJD of Bihar. The ECI preferred to go ahead with the elections with the suggestion of avoiding physical gatherings and preferring a technology-based campaign. The virtual meetings were subsequently successful, but this was not repeated in the high-tension elections in Bengal or Kerala, with parties preferring physical gatherings. The extent to which political parties followed the ECI’s covid guidelines can be seen in election campaign videos. It was people pure luck that there hadn’t been a spike in covid after such massive rallies in these states.
But now it’s a variant that is spreading six times faster and is more virulent as reported elsewhere. So what should the ECI do now? Whether he should consider the suggestion of the higher courts and postpone the elections or proceed with the elections as was done earlier in 2021. Then, he preferred to respect his constitutional obligation to conduct the elections on time. Second, the unity government did not interfere with the functioning of the ECI. But now the UP elections being paramount to the future of the Modi government and reports from ECI officials having an unofficial meeting in the prime minister’s office will change the scenario and the Modi cabinet is suggesting a postponement of the elections. elections because it suits his strategy of canceling out the current anger of farmers in the west of the UP where the Jats dominate. The ICE may not be in a position to make a decision on the postponement of the election, but may send its assessment of Omicron’s situation to the government for a decision on it, as the ICE can only extend the deadline for completing the elections after the electoral process. began as it did in 1991 following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi during the election campaign.
If the ECI sends an evaluation report in favor of the postponement of the elections to the government and the Modi cabinet accepts this report, then the imposition of presidential power in the states where it may have prolonged the period for one year by a year must necessarily come. current mandate of the assemblies through an extraordinary ordinance. The central government in the current political situation may not consider the second option and the first option will create a political storm and could give the opposition a political weapon to get on Modi.
The ECI can use the media to conduct the elections with minimal risk of potential increase during the election campaign. Reduce campaign days, minimize campaign hours, restrict massive gatherings and meetings suggesting the virtual campaign. How many parties will agree to these suggestions is the moot question and how the ICE will fulfill its constitutional obligation with minimum friction with the parties will be seen in the coming days.
(The author is a retired professor and occasional contributor to dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are the personal opinion of the author. He can be contacted at [email protected])