Not half-done: ensuring free and fair elections

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Not half-done: ensuring free and fair elections

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General Elections 2019
Voter turnout remains high, but the ECI must be quicker in acting on code violations
The first phase of voting on Thursday to elect the 17th Lok Sabha witnessed enthusiastic(उत्साही/ललचाना) participation(भागीदारी) of voters in 91 Lok Sabha constituencies(निर्वाचन क्षेत्रों ) across 20 States and Union Territories(केंद्र शासित प्रदेश/संघ राज्यक्षेत्र) . In this opening phase of a total of seven, the challenges in ensuring(सुनिश्चित ) a free and fair poll, as well as the trend of high enthusiasm among voters, have been highlighted. The drive of the Election Commission of India against(दुर्भावना ) malpractices(दुर्भावना ) led, ahead of the first phase, to seizures(जब्त) worth ₹2,426 crore of cash, liquor, drugs and other items meant to unduly(अनुचित/बेचैनी से ) influence(प्रभाव) voters. The ECI’s decision(निर्णय) to ban(प्रतिबंध ) the release of a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its order to stop the broadcast(प्रसारण) of political(राजनीतिक का प्रसारण) content on a TV channel meant for his propaganda(प्रचार/सिद्धांता) were measures(उपाय कार्यवाही) in the right direction. But the trail of serious(गंभीर ) violations(उल्लंघन) of the Model Code of Conduct(आचरण/व्यवहार) and the defiance(अवहेलना/चुनौती) of its previous directives(निर्देश) by the ruling(शासन ) dispensation (व्यवस्था/वितरण)and Mr. Modi himself raise a lot of questions regarding(संबंध ) the ECI’s effectiveness(प्रभावशीलता/कार्यसाधकता) in being a neutral and fair(निष्पक्ष) arbiter(मध्यस्थ). The questions regarding the integrity(अखंडता/ईमानदारी) of the elections arising(उत्पन्न होने वाले ) out of doubts about EVMs have been addressed with 100% Voter Verifiable(निरीक्षण) Paper Audit Trails, followed by a Supreme Court-directed increase(वृद्धि) in their random counting rate from one machine to five per Assembly constituency/segment. But doubts(शंका ) arising(उत्पन्न होना ) out of the ECI’s conduct fall in a different category, and it needs to do more to reassure(यक़ीन दिलाना/आश्वस्त) voters that the process is not vitiated(नुक़सान पहुंचाना/बिगाड़ना) by partisanship(पक्षपात/भेदभाव). The seemingly biased moves by Central agencies such as the Income Tax department targeting only Opposition leaders point to the possible(संभव ) misuse(दुरुपयोग ) of office by the ruling party to target opponents(विरोधियों) . Mr. Modi’s appeal to voters in the name of soldiers — something the ECI had explicitly warned against — was unfortunate, as was the Commission’s failure to take prompt action. While the ECI must urgently respond to MCC violations, the government must act fairly.

Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and parts of Odisha also voted to elect their State Assemblies. Tripura and West Bengal topped(सबसे ऊपर/पीछे छोड़ना) in turnout, with 81.8% and 81%, respectively(क्रमशः). This is the first general election with VVPATs attached to all EVMs. According to the ECI, 1.7% of VVPATs, 0.73% of the ballot units and 0.61% of the control units of EVMs had to be replaced on Thursday. Stray(भटका हुआ/आवारा ) incidents(घटनाएं) of violence were reported in Andhra Pradesh, but in Jammu and Kashmir the polling went relatively(अपेक्षाकृत ) peacefully. In the Jammu constituency 72% polling was recorded, while in the Valley’s Baramulla constituency the figure was 35%, marginally(मामूली) lower than the 2014 figures. Isolated(पृथक की गई) complaints(शिकायतें) regarding mismanagement arose in some parts, but by and large the first phase went on well, and upheld India’s reputation(प्रतिष्ठा/मान) in managing(प्रबंधन ) what is the world’s largest democratic exercise. It is going to be a long summer.