Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Thursday criticised the “creeping ‘new normal’ of political morality” and said all sides must take “exemplary action” to ensure “faith in democratic polity”. He made the statement during his address at the “Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms” organised by the Association of Democratic Reforms.

“It appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs – to the exclusion of ethical considerations,” Rawat said. “In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management, and strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation, etc, are all commended as resourcefulness.”

He urged all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations and constitutional authorities to take action against the belief that the “winner can commit no sin”, that “a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt”.

Rawat’s statements hold relevance in the wake of the controversy in the run up to and during the Rajya Sabha elections. The Gujarat Congress lost six MLAs to the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the polls to the Upper House on August 8. It then flew 44 of its remaining legislators to Bengaluru to prevent them from being poached.

Soon after they were taken to Karnataka, the Income Tax Department raided properties owned by state Energy Minister DK Shivakumar and his brother. The timing of this operation by I-T sleuths was questioned by many, though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had downplayed the speculation.