Holding the Election Commission accountable07 Jan 2019
In a previous post, I had explained two important stories concerning the Election Commission of India.
- First, regarding the allegations of voter deletion in Telangana.
- Second, the clash in Mizoram regarding voting rights for several thousand Bru refugees.
In a column for the Economic and Political Weekly, Alok Prasanna Kumar, a senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, has the latest on this.
One, in Telangana, where a significantly large number of voters were unable to exercise their franchise due to the ECI’s botched attempts to clean up the electoral rolls using software.
Two, in Mizoram, where the ECI bowed to public pressure to replace a state election officer for taking proactive measures to help the marginalised Bru community cast their votes in the upcoming election. (EPW)
Prasanna argues that while these are very different kinds of failures, “they are two instances of the fundamental absence of mechanisms to hold the ECI meaningfully accountable for its actions.”
The 2018 assembly elections have shown that the ECI can, without perhaps intending to, end up harming an individual’s rights to participate in free and fair elections. What the two instances discussed above show is the hard problem of ensuring accountability of the ECI. On the one hand, there is a need to ensure that the ECI is responsive to the needs of the electors. Yet, in a country with so many divides on religion, language, and ethnicity, among others, simply heeding majoritarian demands is a recipe for disaster.
The ECI has admitted that it made a mistake in the large-scale deletions of voters in the electoral rolls (Lasania 2018). While that is a necessary and welcome first step, it is by no means enough to address the concerns of the voters by providing redress to those who were unable to exercise their franchise due to the ECI’s failures. (EPW)