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A Better Model – On the Model Code of Conduct

Context:

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC), which sets the guidelines for parties and governments during election campaigns, is well-intentioned but challenging to enforce. Its effectiveness relies heavily on the cooperation of parties and governments and the watchfulness of the Election Commission of India (ECI).

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Indian Constitution
  • Parliament
  • Transparency & Accountability
  • Representation of People’s Act

Mains Question:

The ECI must act independently as the arbiter of election code breaches. Analyse in the context of recent violations of the Model Code of Conduct. (15 marks, 250 words).

Recent Developments:

  • Recently, the ECI has applied the MCC against several political figures, including Assam Chief Minister, Delhi unit president of the Bharatiya Janata Party and many other notable leaders.
  • In a significant move, the ECI revoked permission for the Telangana government to disburse cash to farmers under the Rythu Bandhu scheme before the November 30 vote.
  • This decision was based on the ECI’s finding that statements made by State Finance Minister T. Harish Rao were in violation of the MCC.
  • Interestingly, the Congress government in Karnataka has received a notice for issuing advertisements that may influence voters in Telangana.
  • Notices were also served to the Gandhis for allegedly using derogatory language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, prompted by complaints from the BJP.

Issues in the working of ECI:

  • This compilation of actions taken by the ECI may create an impression of impartiality, but there are unaddressed issues that deserve attention.
  • Complaints from the Congress against the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, involving charges similar to or even more serious than those against opposition leaders, have been overlooked.
  • The ECI has not offered a response to a Congress complaint alleging that the Enforcement Directorate attempted to influence the outcome in Chhattisgarh by publicly accusing the present Chief Minister amid elections, of receiving kickbacks from a fugitive.
  • Regardless of the merits of this specific case, the utilization of investigations by central or state agencies for political ends during an election can be viewed as unfair interference.
  • There is skepticism about whether the ECI has demonstrated its capability to act impartially and objectively.

Conclusion:

The government initiative to establish the supremacy of the executive in appointing members of the ECI raises even more concern in this context. Under the proposed arrangement, the ruling party at the Centre would have sole control over the composition of the ECI. This, in turn can raise concerns about the prospects of free and fair elections in India.


March 2024
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