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Election Time

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While politics is almost always about winning elections, the past few months have witnessed a lot of election related activity in the country. Now, finally, the proper declaration has been made and the process initiated to actually have the elections. The only problem is that a people already exhausted by the same old rhetoric from all sides will have to endure another three months of hardcore electioneering over as many as seven phases. Having run out of charges and counter-allegations, what can all the contenders serve up in the days to come? Nothing very pleasant! The people of Uttarakhand, who will vote on 19 April, will have to wait till 4 June for the results. Rather tedious in an age when things happen at the speed of the internet.

There are absolutely valid reasons for the Election Commission to hold the elections in so many phases, as explained in detail by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar during his press conference on Saturday. There are conditions in certain states that require spreading out of the voting over more than one phase. Voices of protest have risen over the long electoral exercise. Mallikarjun Kharge is miffed that it gives Prime Minister Modi the chance to campaign in every part of the country. But, doesn’t it give the Congress star campaigners the same opportunity?

But there are others with more valid reasons. One is, events may occur that may alter public opinion during this period. One striking example is that of Rajeev Gandhi’s assassination halfway through the 1991 elections. This had a huge impact, naturally, on the voting that followed. This was a major jolt, but there are other much less tragic events that can occur to affect the public mood. It is also a fact that those voting in later phases are influenced by the trends emerging over the grapevine about earlier voting patterns.

It is important, therefore, that in the coming years, the Election Commission takes the necessary measures, and is provided the means and environment, to conduct elections over as short a period as possible. Given the will, it shouldn’t be difficult to do, as the required technology is already available.

It would be too much to expect that the already bitter campaign will lessen in intensity. In fact, given the outrageous claims that have already been made, the people will find it hard to separate the grain from the chaff. For the good of the nation, however, it will be a task that will have to be done, no matter if it takes three months to do.