Taking it personally

The SAD has difficulty grasping the idea of impartial institutions like the EC

Written by The Indian Express | Published:January 25, 2012 3:10 am

Shiromani Akali Dal candidate and former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur said that she would not rest in peace until she got her own back at the Election Commission officials who had registered cases against her,her family and associates,for allegedly trying to bribe voters with liquor. Earlier,she had been in trouble for her relative donating Rs 21,000 to a school in her constituency — an expense that was totted up to her campaign by the EC. However,Kaur was unapologetic — in fact,she was apoplectic,framing the EC’s decision as a personal affront that deserved retaliation. Instead of disclaiming her allegations,party leader and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal echoed her indignation,claiming that the EC officials were coerced into the action,and that “FIRs would be registered against those who had filed the FIRs”.

In Punjab’s family-driven politics,where decisions are driven by notions of loyalty and fealty,ours and theirs,it might be hard to internalise the idea of an impartial institution like the Election Commission. That it could penalise a party without having any personal grouse against it,for an intangible thing like a campaign rule-book,seems too abstract an idea for the SAD.

Of course,this kind of lashing out at an inconvenient action by the EC is not confined to Punjab. Earlier,in Uttar Pradesh,when the EC ordered all BSP statues to be draped and hidden for as long as the model code of conduct was on,Mayawati shot back at the EC,imputing casteist motives to the decision. Political candidates should know the larger danger of such petty point-scoring — the Election Commission is the one institution in which India reposes utter trust. The resilience of our democracy has much to do with the power of our elections,and the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy and the scrupulous neutrality of the institution that undergirds them.

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