Did EC help Congress in 2012 Gujarat Assembly polls? CM Vijay Rupani claims so
Ahmedabad, Oct 16: The Election Commission (EC) has become the latest casualty of the continuous political bickerings between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition party, the Congress.
Days after the Congress alleged that the poll panel is helping the BJP to declare more sops ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections 2017, slated in December, and thus have not declared election dates along with that of Himachal Pradesh last week to avoid implementation of model code of conduct, now Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has targetted the EC by stating that it helped the Congress during the state Assembly elections in 2012.
During 2012, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power at the Centre.
On Sunday, the Gujarat CM Rupani accused the poll panel of acting at the behest of the Congress ahead of the last state elections in 2012.
"In 2012 (Assembly election), the EC ensured at the behest of the Congress that the model code of conduct was in force for a record time to prevent Modiji (Narendra Modi, then CM of Gujarat) from working, because of which the state government could not take up development work," Rupani said at an election programme organised in Ahmedabad by news channel, India TV.
Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) VS Sampath, who oversaw the conduct of the Gujarat polls in 2012, rejected the allegation levelled by Rupani. Sampath called Gujarat CM's remark "unfair" and "uncharitable".
Talking to The Indian Express, Sampath said, "The EC follows the highest traditions of independence and has never compromised in its constitutional duties. It's very unfair and uncharitable to make such a remark after a lapse of five years from the last election."
During 2012, the EC had simultaneously announced elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh on October 3. The model code of conduct was in force for 83 days.
Sampath's colleague in the EC in 2012, HS Brahma, too, denied that the EC had acted under any influence in 2012. "Yes, the model code of conduct period was long, but it's wrong to say that we acted under some party's influence."
Last week, the EC announced that the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will be held in a single phase on November 9 and the results will be declared on December 18.
The poll panel did not announce the dates for assembly elections in Gujarat, but CEC AK Joti said that the elections will be held before December 18.
The Congress attacked the BJP for "pressuring" the EC to delay the announcement of Gujarat elections and alleged that "past practices, conventions and precedents" were being set aside to help the ruling party in the state.
The opposition party alleged that the "delay" in announcing Gujarat Assembly election schedule was to enable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act as a "false Santa Claus" to offer sops and use "jumlas" (rhetoric) during his October 16 visit to his home state.
The model code of conduct would have come into immediate effect in Gujarat had the poll schedule been announced, it added.
Countering the Congress' allegations, Rupani said, "The Congress was complaining that the BJP will advance election because of the Uttar Pradesh result...we are not interfering in the process of the EC...we are not delaying elections".
"It is my responsibility to work for the public till the last day. Until the EC declares dates of elections, we will keep working for the public. There is nothing wrong in it. It is our right to work until the dates are declared," the chief minister said.
He said the opposition should raise an objection only when there is an interference in the election process.
"It is the right of the EC to declare model code of conduct...(the opposition) wants government to stop working. This is against democratic values," Rupani said.
Former CEC, SY Quraishi, in a column for The Indian Express explained why non-announcement of Gujarat poll dates invites questions from several quarters.
"There are two sets of questions: Why have the Gujarat dates not been announced? And, why a gap of 39 days between the voting and counting in Himachal Pradesh? Actually, both these questions are interlinked...Both mainstream and social media are abuzz with speculation and snide comments, casting aspersions on the EC. Is it to accommodate some VVIP visit to the state (Gujarat)?" asked Quraishi in his column.
"If the government does announce new populist schemes and freebies, it would cause the EC a huge embarrassment. It would be accused of giving the government of Gujarat the few extra days before invoking the model code of conduct. The hard-earned reputation of the Commission's ferocious independence could be in tatters, which would be disastrous for our democracy.
"Politicians must remember that their legitimacy comes from free and fair elections conducted by a constitutional body whose own legitimacy is the ultimate guarantor of the credibility of elections. The EC has been fortunate to have established such a reputation not just in India but globally. Hillary Clinton described it as the gold standard. Reputations take years to build but minutes to crash," the ex-CEC added.
Quraishi lamented the fact that the EC has come under scanner over the issue of announcement of poll dates in Gujarat.