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PUCL, April 2011

PUCL deplores DMK attempts to intimidate the election commission

People’s Union for Civil Liberties
- Tamil Nadu & Puducherry
Hussaina Manzil, 255
Angappa Naicken Street, Chennai 600 001.
Ph.: 25352459 / rightstn@yahoo.com

Forum for Electoral Integrity
Forum for Electoral Integrity
Thiruvalluvar Nagar, Tiruvanmiyur,
Chennai 600041
Ph.: 24515601 / info@freefairelections.org

02nd April, 2011

The Chief Reporter.

Press Note: For Favour of Publication

PUCL - Tamil Nadu and Puducherry and Forum for Electoral Integrity strongly deplores the reported statement of Thiru. M. Karunanidhi, DMK President and Chief Minister in an election rally in Erode on 31st March, 2011 describing the curbs imposed on electioneering by the Election Commission of India as the declaration of a `mini-Emergency’ and describing the steps taken by the ECI to prevent bribing of voters as an intimidation aimed at `breaking the alliance’. He is also reported to have raised the question as to whether there was `rule of law’ in the state and alluded to the fact that such actions were the act of lower level officials.

Comparing the actions of the Election Commission with the Emergency is not only ridiculous but also factually incorrect and politically odious. The Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi (1975-77) was a murder of democracy and a desecration of the ideals of freedom, liberty, rule of law and an attempt to transform a democratic state into an oppressive, dictatorial one. In contrast, the current actions of the Election Commission of India is aimed precisely to restore meaning and dignity to democracy and democratic ideals by enforcing the `rule of law’ and fair play by strictly and impartially implementing the law to neutralize money power, goondaism, intimidation of voters and naked buying of votes.

The effectiveness of the strong actions of the ECI is borne out by the continuous report of huge amount of unaccounted money seized across the state carried in all types of vehicles including ambulances and official vehicles. The action of the ECI has helped restore faith of the common citizen in the election process and generated confidence about free and fair elections.

When viewed against this historical context it becomes clear that the depiction of the strong action by the ECI dubbed by Thiru. Karunanidhi as declaration of a `mini-Emergency’ is not only inappropriate but also meant to intimidate the ECI. As part of the ruling combine at the Centre, Thiru. Karunanidhi’s statement clearly breaches constitutional proprieties regarding the actions of a constitutionally constituted Institution. The attack on the ECI by Thiru Karunanidhi has been matched by the statements made by Mr. P. Chidambaram, Union Home Minister in another election rally in Chennai on the same day. Using poetic metaphors of elections being a democratic festival and alluding to struggles for democracy in Libya, Tunisia and Yemen as being different from democratic process in India, Mr. Chidambaram uses suggestive language in cautioning the EC from imposing unreasonable conditions which would turn a “huge marriage house into a different one”.

We acknowledge the fundamental right of political leaders to express their criticism of actions of various official institutions. However the nature of their expressions has to respect constitutional proprieties and political decorum. What concerns us is the timing and language of the two dominant partners, who together constitute the coalition ruling government at the centre and ruling party in Tamil Nadu. They have a more onerous burden of respecting the independent actions of constitutional authorities and not to, in any way, sound threatening or intimidating the ECI from carrying on efforts to enforce the `rule of law’ to ensure free and fair elections. The extent of degeneration has been officially documented and submitted to the High Court by the ECI. Huge cash caches were found being smuggled in police vehicles and policemen complicit in committing election malpractices have been identified. Over 2900 cases have been registered and the magnitude of election malpractice has been described to be so huge that it is difficult to tackle. Thus by cracking down on bribing, cash-for-votes and such political crimes, the ECI is only playing its constitutional role.

It is revealing that neither the DMK nor the Congress have denied or distanced themselves from the ECI allegations of DMK workers caught or found in possession of unaccounted money meant to be distributed as cash-for-vote during the coming elections. The DMK and the Congress have both not condemned such practices also. While so it is strange that they are now finding fault with the EC and issuing not-so-veiled threats. It appears that by their acts criticizing the EC they are actually, supporting the continuation of such corrupt practices.

It is in this light that we should consider the filing of numerous PILs in the Madras High Court challenging the actions of the ECI. There is strong ground that these PILs have been engineered to mount yet another assault on the ECI from implementing the rule of law.

What is distressing is the lack of any introspection from most of the recognised parties about the degeneration of the political process and the brazen corrupt practices. Open bribing of voters has become the norm. Most of the parties themselves seem to be involved in the same practices alleged of other parties. This cynical disregard for constitutional rule of law ironically will destroy the very foundations of our democracy and push the large mass of citizenry into disbelief in the electoral system.

PUCL and Forum for Electoral Integrity call upon the citizens to be more vigilant about their hard won democratic rights. At stake are not just elections - but the future of democracy itself.

M.G. Devasahayam, Forum for Electoral Integrity President,

Dr. V. Suresh, PUCL-TN / Puducherry

PUCL, 270-A, Patparganj, Opp. Anandlok Apartments, Mayur Vihar-I, New Delhi- 110091, India. Phone (91) 11- 2275 0014