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Election Challenge

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The fate of candidates vying for political power in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry has been sealed in the EVMs on Tuesday. These states have seen single day polling – indicative of the fact that the political complexities there are in the mind and not of law and order. Assam experienced a three phase poll. West Bengal is unique in that the election is slated to be held in eight phases, simply because the Election Commission thinks it necessary for free and fair polling. This is the state of affairs in a state that has descended to almost primitive levels of animosity owing to the pathetic quality of politics and leadership. Three phases have taken place and five more are awaited. Owing to this, the results of the other state elections will also be delayed and become available only on 2 May.

West Bengal’s ruling party, the TMC, and its desperate Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, are already pointing fingers at the impartiality of the Election Commission. Despite the deployment of para-military forces, every effort is being made to instigate confrontations and create an environment of fear. Threats have already been held out by Banerjee that those who support the other parties would be dealt with post the elections. This situation is bound to escalate in the coming phases. Thankfully, the Election Commission, over the years, has developed tremendous expertise in dealing with such situations. The result will reflect closest to the people’s mandate as possible in such a polarised state.

Those unaware of the difficulties in holding elections even under normal circumstances in India – because of the diversity in terrain, climate, cultures and temperament – can be easily persuaded that the process is flawed. However, looked at in the perspective of how the Commission has continuously improved upon the performance of the past, particularly from when TN Seshan was the Chief Election Commissioner, democracy has only been strengthened as a result. This is why, despite the protestations by many, the people know their votes have been translated fairly into mandates. The reforms continue with the aid of technology and institutionalised expertise. There was a time when entire sections of people were denied the right to vote and a lot of bogus voting took place. Today, even in West Bengal, every individual can do so relatively without fear. However, to achieve perfection, the political class will also need to improve, which becomes possible when alternatives emerge to the established order. The people surprise with their choices in every election – they can be expected to do the same in the present round as well.