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Misuse of position: Will President, Supreme Court, Election Commission keep a check?

By Mansee Bal Bhargava* 
Open letter to President, Supreme Court, and Election Commission of India:
Greetings! 
Keeping my hope on the three institutions despite all the speculations raised on their integrity, I write this letter with an earnest request to help the ordinary citizens of India understand the meanings of symbols-statesmanship at a position and in profession. Personally, following the political activities of India closely over three decades, it is realized that some things are changing faster than the citizens can easily comprehend, an important one being the Symbols of Statesmanship at a position and in profession.
It is relieving that the Bengal elections are over (finally). Never have we seen this high-octane drama in the elections (like in Bengal) especially in the election campaigns since the 2013, but the recent Bengal campaign is just unimaginable. Keeping aside the election campaigns relationship with the surge in Covid cases, the focus (concern) is about the withering of the symbols of statesmanship at a position and in profession.
There are few questions that pertain to answer to my students' queries while trying to explain them the fact that the government and the politics are two separate entities; and that those are related only through some institutional framework where individuals (from politics) at certain position in government can/may perform certain roles and responsibilities with the assigned profession.
The case of Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, aka the star political campaigner of the elections since 2013, is assessed to frame the queries. Just to clarify, the same queries apply to the Chief Ministers or even the other Ministers like the Home Minister of the country. Since, the West Bengal election seems to be extremely crucial to the PM and also since the campaigns showcased the epitome of withering of the symbols of statesmanship at a position and in profession. 
The very notion of PM, as an institution, seems to be subjugated by an individual. Emancipating a dignified Institution like the PM, by an Individual is a bit unclear especially during the election campaigns which have become an everyday event nowadays hopping from one state to the other; but clear enough to realize that something is messed up about the position and the profession.
First, is the use of the Symbol of the Government of India (or the State Government in case of CM) or a political party during the election campaigns. It is also observed that several ministers appear on media as Central ministers with the political party logo at the background. This isn’t correct since they respond as X-minister of the Government of India and therefore must use the GoI institutional logo (Ashoka Lions).
If a PM/CM/HM is campaigning for a state/national election, in what capacity that individual is campaigning? Is the individual campaigning at the behest of the position held or otherwise as professional politician? If the former, then being a government servant should the individual carry the institutional logo to go campaign for a political party? If the latter, then as a political party worker, the individual may indeed use the party logo but, then can the individual exercise all the institutional benefits of a PM/CM/HM? Both options seem problematic despite knowing that the logo of a political party is being used, rightfully so, during the election campaigns.
Well, I could not fish out clear answers to the two alternatives, but the logo being just a symbolic query, extends to the use of institutional machineries like travel, security, working hours and even the title/position for the election campaigns and goes further to the dignity of the position and statesmanship. 
When a PM/CM/HM is an institution to carry out certain roles and responsibilities, how the institutional prerogatives can be subjugated by an individual holding that position towards benefiting a political party? Morally right question is, should a position holding individual like PM/CM/HM be allowed to campaign and then should they be allowed to exploit the institutional set up?
A simple example is a judge/commissioner/ collector/ government officer using office vehicles-driver-fuel for family outing in the off or office hours which is such a normal practice in India that we don’t even find it wrong anymore, so considering it unlawful is farfetched. Similarly, if an individual engages in the election campaigns in the off or office hours, is the individual entitled to all the institutional facilities including the use of the title of the position like, the PM/CM/HM?
Shouldn’t the campaigning individual in the latter situation use the party machinery? Shouldn’t the use of institutional facilities to promote a party be unlawful activity? Since, a PM/CM/HM is provided with position and facilities from the ALL peoples money, which needs to be used when on duty to perform the roles and responsibilities towards all the citizens. Logically, an election campaign is Not A Duty of a PM/CM/HM towards the citizenry.
It is observed that Modi visited the State of West Bengal several times since the beginning of the year for the election campaigns and has exploited all the institutional machinery as a PM but for promoting a political party. It is also observed from time to time that the PM has denied his party’s motto of electioneering; however, the memes of the star campaigner being called a PM of the party instead of the country is also extensively circulated. 
Though he shifted to the virtual rally in the last few days only after the Covid positive cases crossed two lakh per day, his allies continued rallies on the ground even until the last day. His face is all over in every nook and corner of Bengal, making it look like a PM competing for a CM position.
This gets grave especially during this severe Covid crisis when the PM, instead of taking cognizance of the situation and fulfilling his roles and responsibilities, was fiercely batting/betting for the Bengal election. In fact, he and the other political leaders were even breaking the Covid protocols of social distancing left, right and centre at the time when police was getting brutal with the citizens on the protocols.
How do we expect that the citizens will follow the rules when leaders continue to break them openly? This is just an example, which can be exemplified in others matters also from corruption to carnage. I wish the President of India, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission had stepped in the picture to curb the state elections and the allied massive election campaigns before the rising Corona distress by taking some insights from the intelligence office.
Anyway, it gets graver with the notion of alienation of a state from the country in the election campaign rhetoric. For example, when a PM raises the problems (rightfully) of a state, be it Covid or Unemployment or Infrastructure or Infiltration (as used in the campaign speeches), and promises to solve them once in power in the state, it sounds technically incorrect. 
Since, if things are not going right in a state, it is as much a responsibility of a PM of the country as it is of the CM of the state. Similarly, resounding the border insecurity during the state elections (only) is technically incorrect, since it is a national matter and joint responsibility of these government employees PM-CM-HM in position.
Linking the same to the Covid crisis, in what capacity a political leader can promise free vaccination? Just to remind this rhetoric has been used more often than it should be for example, also in Bihar 2020 election. If it is a political Jumla, then what is the extent of political Jumla? Will the President of India, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission set some stringent rules of rhetoric linked to humanity? Since, such promises are not only inhuman to play with the emotions and the life of the people but also hostile according to the law of the land.
Coming back to the promise of free vaccination, is the Individual promising free vaccine at the expense of the political party or at the expense of the Institution of the Government of India? If the latter, then the scheme must be for pan India and not limited to Bengal again as per the law of the land. Ironically, neither Biharis got free vaccination in 2020, nor the Bengalis will get in 2021, no matter who reign Bengal. 
In fact, the vaccines are set to be sold on higher prices to the States (barring a few who plan to do free vaccination) because of the poor vaccination policies of the central government (click here and here). Although Bengal seems to roll on free vaccination from May 1, 2021 but that is the decision of the current CM, Mamata Banerjee, after the Central government left the States to be #Atmanirbhar after a year of Central control of corona leading us to this chaos.
My symbolic query further extends that if electioneering by a PM/CM/HM position holding individual is an accepted culture here, then it is also expected from those to maintain the statesmanship. The ‘Didi-o-Didi...’ remark by an individual (man) is something not surprising in a patriarchal society of India as it sounded like a young (bad) guy eve teasing girls/women in the public space.
However, this is indeed not expected from an institution like the PM in a country where there are dozens of schemes for women empowerment in order to raise the dignity of the women in the country. In a country that is extremely poor in women leadership, such kind of remarks are sarcastic as well as demotivating since a woman will have difficulty stooping so low as a man in the country. But then by position and profession, the PM/CM/HM must maintain the dignity of the institutions they represent.
The way the men are clouding and howling in Bengal, it is extremely intimidating for women to stand up in political endeavors. And I’ll even fear that the younger women observing such ugly drama may not chose to (or not dare to) take up political leaderships. Is that what we want in the country after years of men ruling us to devastations like we are going through in all aspects let alone corona. You may like to check with the global rankings of the country in various aspects including women unemployment, domestic violence, rape and subjugation of the political leadership.
One may put the onus of this misrepresentation of the institutions and the individuals to the rise of the various media forms including the social media where journalists and citizens (including the politicians) are exercising use of words more casually than the meanings (depth) of these words thus resulting in misleading of the Symbols-Statesmanship of a Position and Profession in the perception of the mass.
If the media is misinterpreting the position and the profession by misquoting PM instead of quoting Modi when writing about the election campaigns with the party logo? The same media should also clarify when they call a minister to talk about any matter, as in what capacity an individual is talking-personal or institutional/minister. It is difficult to realize that the media is unaware about this distinction between the institution and an individual, the government and the politics.
The least a position holding individual can do when there is such a huge opportunity to reach the ground is to listen to peoples’ needs
It is also difficult to accept that the political leaders are unaware of these distinctions. It is understandable that the most citizens make no distinction between the government and the politics. The larger impact of such casual narratives is evident from that the fact that Bharat Sarkar is narrated mostly as Modi Sarkar not only by its political party but by the media and even by several government organizations including the courts and even the President’s office. This casual misrepresentation by all starts further stooping in electioneering with words, works and worth, for example, from “Hamari Sarkar” to “Meri Sarkar to I, Me, Myself.”
Finally, please also note that we are unfortunately pushed to a continuous state of election by the political parties augmented with the ugly media that rages a sense of tension, violence, aggression bringing more unrest in the society instead of good health and happiness which seems to have disappeared from the election agenda. Ironically, things have gone so far in elections, that individuals holding positions are imagining the party and even the person to be the country and vice versa, which is incorrect by all means.
The institutions seem compromised by the individuals in the electioneering process. One may defend it as reaching to the ground level is part of the profession. Fine, it is acceptable but, then the position is meant to make use of that opportunity to serve directly the society with promoting the institutional facilities instead of using rhetoric and threatened narratives of the state of affairs and making some irresponsible promises like free food, electricity and now even free vaccine.
The least a position holding individual can do when there is such a huge opportunity to reach the ground, is to listen to the peoples’ needs than imposing people to listen. The cost of narcissism in Bengal electioneering is what we are paying with the Covid upsurge as we are challenged more by the poor governance than the virus itself.
I have made my point going round-round the matter to enquire about the symbolic logo in order to emphasize as we usually do in teaching using various examples so that the students get a clearer picture. In nutshell, it is important that when the government and the politics are technically two different entities, they need to be distinguished by the institutions as well as the individuals.
If an individual position holder is unable to understand or maintain this distinction (dignity) of the institution, it is the other constitutional pillars like the President of India, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission duty to ensure that the symbol and the statesmanship at a position and in profession is upheld, importantly, ensuring that the highest institutions are not withered at the helm of a few individuals.
Assuming the institutions like the President of India, the Supreme Court, and the Election Commission know the distinction of the institution and the individual, they are requested to take a cognizance of the matter. My request will be to have this distinction come out clear in all the off and official occasions and narratives.
The media definitely needs to take a cognizance of its narratives when representing an individual or an institution especially during the elections. Logically and morally, a PM/CM/HM should not be electioneering using the position and profession, and if they do so as individual, they should not be entitled to the use of the government machinery barring a few situations.
My urge to check on this matter may read bloating the matter and at the same time misunderstood, may be rightfully so; however, being a political science – public administration learner, I put this as query for clarification than objection. It is indeed unfortunate that query and objection are also not distinguished in our culture; more so in the recent times when queries are de-facto interpreted as objections, which is already a sign of suppression.
Still, with a hope that the President of India, the Supreme Court, the Election Commission and even the media houses will keep a constant check on the distinction of the institution and the individual to maintain (restore as few like to say now) the democracy in the country.
Thank you and Sincerely,
Jai Hind!
Mansee
---
*Entrepreneur, researcher educator, water enthusiast, governance scholar and keen political observer. Click here for more about

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