A new political template is taking hold after the success of Mamata Banerjee’s TMC in West Bengal. Rather, it is a throwback to the pre-Seshan reforms in the electoral process. Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav has taken a page out of Mamata’s book and informed his followers that ‘note is being taken of all the abuse leveled at us by the BJP, lists have been made and this will be answered with interest when we come to power’. It is constitutes an outright threat to use state power against those who oppose the SP, just as the TMC has wreaked vengeance in its territory.
It may be recalled that during the times of the ballot boxes, it became evident during the counting how each area had voted. Dominant communities and castes in those areas could then identify and target those who had voted contrary to their diktats. So, the then Chief Election Commissioner, TN Seshan, began the practice of mixing the ballot papers from the entire constituency so that the voting pattern could not be so easily ascertained. Sadly, with the introduction of the EVMs, this reform has disappeared. With the recording of each EVM, the observers of political parties learn how each area has voted. So, it is back to square one when it comes to protecting the anonymity of the voter’s choice.
The socially, economically and politically weaker communities such as the Dalits, OBCs other than the dominant Yadavs and Jats in UP, as also numerically fewer general category voters, or those simply with an independent opinion, will have to face the kind of suppression they did earlier. As such, an important reform the EC must immediately undertake is to go back to the ‘pooling’ of votes in each constituency. How this would be done technically should not be such a challenge, or resort can be taken to simply remove identifying marks from each EVM after the necessary identification and confirmation formalities are done.
Neither have the otherwise proactive courts taken suo moto cognisance of Akhilesh Yadav’s threat, nor has the Election Commission. Even the media has barely reported it. This is because there are different standards for different folk. Also, society has very low expectations of politicians like Yadav, so the dire implications of such words are not understood. Rightly, such politicians ought to be banned from contesting elections but, instead, they will be permitted to destroy the very foundations of peaceful transfer of power. In the immediate context, this does not bode well for the people of UP.