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Congress’s Attacks on Election Commission of India

Congress Attack Election Commission

This article is part of a series on Congress’s attack on Indian Institutions.

Part 1: Attack on Election Commission

Part 2: Attack on Indian Judiciary

Part 3: Attack on CBI

Part 4: Attack on Armed Forces

In the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, Congress Party along with other opposition parties are continuing with their charge on Election Commission of India, a constitutional body, of being biased and partisan. We bring to our readers a post which highlights as to how Congress has attacked the Election Commission of India.

Election Commission charged Congress of maligning its image through fabricated documents

The institution of ECI has been under severe attack by the Congress party. From the credibility of EVMs to the reputation of the Poll Panel, on all fronts, the commission has been attacked by the Congress Party. We have previously covered this aspect comprehensively in our article titled Attacks on Election Commission of India before Elections. In this article, we had explained as to how the Election Commission reported to the Supreme Court that there had been a malicious attempt by the Congress Party to sully its image by way of fabrication of certain documents.

As per a Times of India report, “the Election Commission of India claimed in the Supreme Court on Thursday (October 4, 2018) that attempts were being made to malign the poll panel and get a favourable order by fabricating the documents in a case filed by Congress leader Kamal Nath, with regard to Madhya Pradesh assembly elections.”

An empty rhetoric around manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)

Let us recall here that the Congress party had initiated the charge of ‘manipulated EVMs’ after it had lost the election in the year 2014. But, when the Election Commission of India challenged them to prove their charge, let alone the Congress party, no opposition party or leader turned up with any concrete evidence to prove the charge. It seems that they knew that these allegations and fake charges were only good for their political speeches and not otherwise.

But, even after these episodes when their bluff of manipulated EVMs was called out, Congress Party leaders had the temerity to continue attacking the Election Commission viciously, a constitutional body.

International Defamation of Election Commission of India

Congress’s veteran leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal had attended the infamous press conference in London, UK, where a self-proclaimed cyber expert Syed Shuja was making a presentation. This presentation was about demonstrating how the EVMs in India were being hacked. It needs to be remembered here that Kapil Sibal’s own party Congress had never participated in an open challenge by Election Commission to prove the argument that EVMs can be hacked. Instead of proving their argument to Election Commission of India directly, Congress has been taking many other routes to somehow set the narrative of the manipulation of EVMs. Importantly, to raise the rhetoric levels, Congress has defamed Election Commission of India at international fora too.

Appointment of Congress loyalist Navin Chawla as CEC during 2009 LS elections

Navin Chawla, former Chief Election Commissioner of India (CEC) during 2009 Lok Sabha Elections, has been known for his loyalty to Congress Party.

A Surya Prakash in his article in Daily Pioneer has written, “Mr Navin Chawla, the Secretary to the Lt Governor of Delhi during the dreaded Emergency in 1975-77. Mr Chawla displayed fascist tendencies when he ordered the Superintendent of Tihar Jail to “bake” Mrs Indira Gandhi’s political opponents in cells with asbestos roofs.

He was named by Shah Commission, inquiring about systematic assault on democracy during National Emergency, for his partisan role in favour of Congress. The commission had said, Mr Chawla had behaved in an “authoritarian and callous” manner to “grossly misuse their position” like a “tyrant”.

To maintain the integrity and neutrality of the Election Commission of India, N Gopalaswami, former CEC who preceded Navin Chawla before he became the CEC, had reportedly written a letter to the President of India recommending his removal from the ECI for discharging his duties in a partisan manner (favouring Congress party), leaking confidential details of the ECI meetings on the pretext of ‘loo breaks’.

In the letter to the President, the CEC N Gopalaswami had then noted whenever the full bench meeting was seized of an issue, Chawla will make an excuse of going to the washroom. And soon thereafter, invariably, the CEC would get phone calls from top Congress functionaries even as the meeting was in progress. This amounted to interference in the functioning of the Election Commission, the CEC felt.

Despite this, a person with such a record of partisanship and winner of Italian government’s Mazzini Award, was appointed by the UPA as Election Commissioner in 2005 and as CEC in 2009. No wonder, Sonia Gandhi led Congress Party won the Lok Sabha elections of 2009.

Rajiv Gandhi’s uncomfortable relationship with a former CEC R.V.S. Peri Sastri

R.V.S. Peri Sastri was the CEC between 1986-1990 who is credited for reforms like introduction of EVMs and reduction in the voting age to 18 years.

During his tenure as CEC, an attempt was made by the government of India to expand one-member election commission to a three-member election commission. This attempt was widely seen as to clip the powers of the then CEC Peri Sastri as he had refused to bow to the pressures regarding timing and conduct of general elections of 1989, as described by former CAG C. G. Somiah in his book ‘The Honest Always Stand Alone’.

An article in Live Mint highlighting the role of R.V.S. Peri Sastri notes, “In the post-independence decades when the Congress dominated at the Central and state levels, the body was, if not collusionary, certainly accommodating. It would take until 1987, when then chief election commissioner (CEC) R.V.S. Peri Sastri broke from the tradition of the government telling the CEC when to hold polls, for the ECI to begin turning the corner.”

Making ECI a toothless body

Congress rendered the ECI ‘toothless’ especially between 1967 and 1991, downgrading its position as a constitutional authority. The strategy was condemned way back in 1975 by Justice V. M. Tarkunde committee which was appointed by Jayaprakash Narayan, on behalf of the Citizens for Democracy (CFD) for electoral reforms. To quote :

“In the recent years, an impression is gaining ground that the Election Commission is becoming less and less independent of the Executive than in the earlier years of Independence, because the choice of the Chief Election Commissioner has not always been based on criteria, which would command the confidence of all sections of public opinion. The practice of making it a berth for retiring Government officials has, perhaps, been responsible for the feeling that the incumbent so benefitted will be beholden to the Government for his office.”

Thus, the weakening of the ECI as an institution is actually the question citizens of India must ask holding the misrule of dynastic Congress to be responsible over the years since independence. Congress’s charge against election commission of India of being biased appears ridiculous, as it no longer toes the line of any party.