EC lost its credibility: Cong
New Delhi: Accusing the Election Commission of losing its credibility and independence, Congress leader Randeep Surjewala on Thursday said that time has come to review the process of the poll panel's appointment.
Asking whether the model code of conduct had become the "Modi code of misconduct", Congress' chief spokesperson said that the Election Commission order curtailing campaigning in West Bengal by 20 hours is a "dark spot" on India's democracy and institutions like the poll panel. In the first such action in India's electoral history, the poll panel on Wednesday invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to end campaigning in nine West Bengal constituencies at 10 pm on Thursday, a day before its scheduled deadline, following violence between BJP and TMC workers in Kolkata.
"The Election Commission has completely abdicated its Constitutional duty under Article 324 to ensure a level playing field, besides negating the due process under Article 14 and 21 of India's Constitution," Surjewala told reporters in a blistering attack against the Election Commission.
"Time has come to review the process of appointment of Election Commission. Should it only remain an appendage to the ruling dispensation or is it a constitutional body which is so intrinsically important to our democracy that its appointment requires to be mandated and tapered through a fair, transparent process like in many other cases?" he asked.
The debate, in his view, must happen for democracy to thrive and survive and the entire process of appointment of the Election Commission needs to be reviewed. The Congress, a responsible political party, has never cast unwarranted aspersions on the actions of Constitutional bodies, Surjewala said.
"But we are deeply saddened to say that EC has completely lost its independence and abdicated its Constitutional integrity," the Congress leader said. It appears that the Election Commission's action is a "parting gift" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP to ensure Modi's two pre-announced election rallies in Mathurapur and Dum Dum on Thursday are not hit, Surjewala alleged.
"Modi ji's chair, the prestige and independence of the Election Commission and democracy, all three are now in danger on account of the actions that we have seen in the last 24 hours. People are the final masters in this country and when all else fails, democracy prevails," he said. "Instead of punishing the goons and hooligans of the BJP led by their president Amit Shah, the Election Commission is punishing democracy, per se. It has created a fear psychosis by admitting ECI's inability to hold a free and fair poll. The order of the ECI is an unpardonable betrayal of the Constitution," he said.
Asking whether the EC has become "a mere helpless pawn in the hands of Modi-Shah duo", he said that every citizen is questioning the independence, impartiality, objectivity and fairness of the poll panel.
"... Wasn't EC's order aimed at solely giving a free pass to the two public rallies of Narendra Modi being organised today afternoon and evening at Mathurapur and Dum Dum? Can there be a more glaring instance EC's being muzzled into submission by the ruling party?" he asked. "Congress filed over 11 complaints with the poll panel against Modi and Shah. Despite clear dissent in the EC ranks and "clear cut case of brazen violation of MCC (model code of conduct), it meekly surrendered to the whims of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah", he alleged.