The Congress on Saturday criticised the Election Commission amid reports of a rift in the panel and claimed that the Election Commission has become the “Election Omission”.
The statement came after reports alleged that Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa has recused himself from the panel’s meetings on deciding violations of the Model Code because his “minority decisions were going unrecorded”. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, however, dismissed the reports as unsavoury. Urging people to stop speculating on the matter, Arora said it was an internal matter. The other member of the panel is Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra.
“This is a day-light murder of Constitutional norms, set conventions and propriety,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said. “The poll panel’s rules express preference for a unanimous view, but provide for a majority ruling in the absence of unanimity. Being a Constitutional body, the minority view has to be recorded, but this is being trampled to protect Modi-Shah duo.”
Earlier this month, The Indian Express had reported that Lavasa had opposed five clearances that the poll panel gave to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah in complaints of Model Code of Conduct violations. The commission has given Modi clearances in six such cases altogether. However, Lavasa’s dissent was not noted in the poll panel’s orders.
“This speaks volumes about the political pressure being exerted by the Modi Govt [government] on the EC,” Surjewala said, adding that this “has severely tarnished the institutional integrity of the Election Commission”.
He also claimed that eroding institutional integrity is the hallmark of the BJP government and alleged that Modi has “taken upon himself the task of denigrating, damaging, decimating, dislodging and diminishing” every institution in India.
Several other leaders also took to Twitter to raise their concerns about the alleged rift as well as the allegations of model code of conduct violations against Modi and Shah.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev said: “The clean chits were not so clean after all.” The MP had filed a petition in the Supreme Court last month seeking direction to the Election Commission to take action against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah for alleged poll code violations. She had alleged that the two leaders were indulging in hate speech and repeatedly using the armed forces for “political propaganda”.
Some other politicians appreciated Lavasa’s integrity. Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha said he was proud of civil servants like Ashok Lavasa.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Peoples Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti also appreciated Lavasa’s integrity and honesty. “Not all is lost,” Mufti wrote on Twitter. “In a sea of sarkari babus [bureaucrats] like Sunil Arora, exists an honest bureaucrat like Ashok Lavasa. Salute him for his integrity.”
Swaraj India President Yogendra Yadav thanked Lavasa for saving the reputation of the Election Commission. “Thanks Ashok Lavasa for saving the reputation of this great institution,” Yadav said. “Please do write down you dissent, your opinions, if only for posterity. To the other two members: don’t you have any shame?”