As many as 66 former civil servants have written an open letter to the President of India Ram Nath Kovind over the functioning of the Election Commission and listing alleged violations of the model code of conduct that the ECI failed to deal with effectively.
In the letter, the collective registered its concern over the compromised ‘independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency’ of the Election Commission of India.
The former officials have pointed out the ECI’s ‘inability’ to check the misuse, abuse and blatant disregard of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the ruling party ahead of upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
“We are deeply concerned about the weak-kneed conduct of the ECI, which has reduced the credibility of this constitutional body to an all-time low,” the group has written.
The officers, including former IPS officer Julio Ribeiro, former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, former TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar, former health secretary Keshav Desiraju, former Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar, former IPS officer Meeran Borwankar, former Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung, wrote “The ECI’s independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are perceived to be compromised today, thereby endangering the integrity of the electoral process which is the very foundation of Indian democracy. We are distressed to note the misuse, abuse and blatant disregard of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) by the ruling party at the Centre, and the ECI’s pusillanimity in coming down with a heavy hand on these violations.”
The former officials have cited a series of instances that violates the guidelines of MCC. The list includes PM Narendra Modi’s address to the nation on the anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), the upcoming Modi biopic, web series on his life, NaMo TV and alleged incendiary speeches by the PM and other BJP leaders on Sena.
The instances include Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s televised address on the successful test of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile where he includes it as their achievement. The officials have disagreed with the EC’s conclusion that the broadcast didn’t violate the MCC on technical ground. They believed that it was not made on a public broadcasting platform like Doordarshan or All India Radio.
Releasing of Modi biopic in the middle of polls is another issue that they have written in his open letter. They call it a “backdoor effort to garner free publicity for a political person and his party”. “We contend that the entire expenses on the production, distribution and publicity of the biopic should be debited to the election expenses of Shri Narendra Modi,” they have written. The same kind of attitude should be applied against Eros Now web series Modi: A Common Man’s Journey.
On the issue of newly introduced NaMo TV channel, the officers said “it is a brazen violation of democratic norms”. The channel has been automatically added to all subscribers accounts ‘as a launch offer’ with no option to delete the individual channel.
The officials also pointed out UP CM Yogi Adityanath on his harsher statement “Modi ji ki sena” in a rally last week. Such statements are a deliberate attempt to mislead the general public, apart from damaging the tradition of the armed forces as apolitical formations”.
The group wants EC to discourage all divisive speeches among all the political parties, citing the example of the PM’s 1 April speech in Wardha, in which he said the Congress had insulted Hindus.