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'Defiance' of Election Commission guidelines in Tamil Nadu: Do media, politicians care?

By NS Venkataraman* 

With the polling in Tamil Nadu over, many citizens heave a sigh of relief that they would be spared from the noise made by politicians and media at least for the next few weeks, it is time to reflect for a moment about the role of the Election Commission in Tamil Nadu and what kind of respect it commanded from the media and the political parties.
The Election Commission specifically said that no campaign should be carried out in the print and visual media, social media such as Twitter, WhatsApp etc.. on the day preceding the election. Forty eight hours before the election day, no pre-poll survey should be discussed.
However, the print and visual media as well as politicians simply did not take note of the guidelines from the Election Commission, which obviously means, perhaps, they are indifferent as far as the Election Commission is concerned.
Even newspapers published in Tamil and English with long tradition and what one would think of as the reputation that they have to protect, carried massive advertisements running into several pages from more than one political party on April 5, 2021, a day before the polling. 
 It was shocking for a person like me reading a particular English newspaper for over five decades and with a vice like grip that the paper has over me, to find a cartoon published in the centre page on April 5 which is obviously partisan and seems to be aimed at one or two political parties. Obviously, the publication of the cartoon must have been approved by the editor.
One Tamil channel discussed the pre-poll survey on April 4 night, which was against the guidelines issued by the Election Commission, which does not appear to have reacted to such defiance by the political parties and the media.
Highly concerned about such a scenario, I sent a mail to several persons who retired as top officers in the state and central governments, persons known for courage of conviction and some so-called “ordinary people” who have been silently fuming about the steady fall in the value systems in India.
To my surprise, around 70% of the people to whom I sent messages responded. It appears most of them concurred with my concern. Some of them said that the Election Commission has become weak. Some others said that the public opinion has become very weak and impotent.
Tamil and English newspapers carried massive ads running into several pages from more than one political party a day before the polling
Some others said that the section of media has become irresponsible, as it attaches more importance to business promotion and earning money by way of advertisement rather than by standing for the cause as expected by the common people. Some people said that people are also responsible as they put up with all such violations and remain as spectators from the gallery.
Some are of the view that the Election Commission has been systematically weakened by the judiciary, as several decisions of the Election Commission have been overruled by the judiciary in recent times. It appears that the judiciary has developed an “elder brother” attitude towards the Election Commission, though the judiciary and Election Commission are constitutional bodies and derive their authority from the constitution.
An elderly journalist, who practiced as an active journalist in better times, sarcastically said that the “election process in India has become one of the Election Commission versus the rest”.
Another view expressed was that while Election Commission routinely issue warnings and show cause notice to the candidates and political parties not adhering to the guidelines, rarely any action is taken after the conclusion of the poll against those defying the guidelines. They go scot free. One gets an impression that Election Commission wants to go through the poll process somehow. Is the poll process in Tamil Nadu is a case of "operation successful and patient died"?
---
Trustee, Nandini Voice For the Deprived, Chennai

Comments

Anonymous said…
the political parties are fully aware that the EC has transformed itself into the EC of the BJP. Why should political parties care - as long as they have the right affiliations and party?

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