Election code of conduct is a guide for the political parties and contesting candidates. Though the guideline is issued by the Commission, it is normally formulated in consultation with all the parties. The code is in operation from the day poll dates are announced till the electoral process is over. The election of the ‘Lower House’ is due in the month of April and May; the ‘House’ is to be constituted on or before 3rd June. The election will be conducted in 9 phases and the polling dates are going to be announced on 12th March according to a senior astrologer, for whom I have great respect; because his prediction of the last election dates was almost correct.
I am not very particular about the dates but certainly enthusiastic about the Code of Conduct. This code must be followed by the contesting candidates, political parties and the government (ruling parties). But the irony is that they hardly follow the code which was formulated by themselves. I don’t understand why they all agreed to such rules and regulations which are difficult to oblige. Rather they should have a code of conduct which can be complied with.
Easier Code for Compliance:
- There should be no distribution of money (corruption / bribery) and no intimidation during the election to influence the voters. We all know the ground reality. So, instead of a complete ban, we may slightly water down the rule. For distribution of money to the voters, they can simply agree on some amount (say 500 per voter or so); why should the poor voters be deprived of such an opportunity to extract some hard cash from the candidates/parties quinquennially. On intimidation– some small threats here and there are inevitable during election season but threat onlife should not be entertained. These are some practical suggestions; powerful and rich Parties may not agree.
2.Again, it sounds impractical that liquor should not be supplied to the voters during election from the candidates. This is too harsh. One quarter per day per electorate till the voting is over seems quite reasonable. For the dry states nobody can help expect our security Samaritans and local benevolent brewers. Democracy without drinks is draconian. Look at the USA or UK during election time – the profit margin of the liquor barons is mind boggling.
- ‘No recruitment/ ad hoc appointments by the government (Ruling Party)’ sounds okay. In the existing Code of Conduct there is no specific objection to Contract employment. But why should the ruling dispensation take a chance; they may burn the midnight oil and bring out the list before the notification which is likely to be issued on the Bajrang Bali day.
- No election campaigns, rallies, road-shows, meetings should be held in and around the residents of opponent candidate; it sounds quite ethical. But it is not practical all the time; party men and workers of the contestants often break this moral code. Don’t blame the local police or authorities.
- No ribbon cutting / foundation laying /inauguration should be done by the government (ruling party) once the election dates are announced. But who will restrain the series of inaugurations and policy decisions taken just on the eve of election notification? This convention needs to be looked into.
- Permission for use of loudspeaker, organizing public meetings/ rallies blocking the roads etc. should be taken from the local competent authorities. The big parties or powerful candidates often ignore the local authorities. If objected by the local authorities, they are often intimidated by the ruling party or the mighty candidates.
- No hate speech, no communal instigation, no campaign on religious lines etc. should be allowed. All the parties / candidates knowingly violet these rules just for votes. Ultimately what matters to them is to win the election by any means. That is the tragedy.
- Public spaces, halls, guest houses, helipads must be shared equally by the contesting parties/candidates. These facilities are used extensively by the party in power. The helipads are used only the ruling parties or the rich candidates. This is the practice and convention. Is there any suggestion to change for the better?
- Criticisms should be made on policies, program, works etc.; no personal attacks should be made; the personal life of the candidates should not be touched upon. If a candidate is having 4 spouses, what is wrong with that? If a candidate has no spouse, again what is wrong with you? Election campaigns without personal attacks can never happen in liberal democracies.
- If the candidates or their workers have any complaint or problem regarding the conduct of the election, they may bring to the notice of the Election Observer. Normally Observer’s duty is to observe; why should they take unnecessary trouble, who knows who will win or who will come to power?
I told my better- half that I want to contest election. She said, have you ever won any election in life? I said proudly, “yes, all elections uncontested”. She rebutted, “this is not your college hostel election? if you contest such big elections you will lose your deposit”; “tell me who will give you ticket?” Who will take care of such internal mau-mau? Because of such threats good people are not entering politics. This does not mean that all those who are already in politics are scoundrels.