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On the polling schedules issue, Ex-CEC said, There has been ample speculation about election dates, with some even casting aspersions on the Election Commission of India’s (EC’s) neutrality in determining the dates. Heres how the Lok Sabha Polling 2019 ‘schedules’ has created a widespread controversy?
Announcement of National General Election 2019
As India gears for its seventeenth Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the announcement of National General Election 2019 ‘schedules-dates’ on March 10 by the Election Commission of India, political parties in the state are divided over some of the schedules that are clashing with Ramzan (May 5 – June 4, 2019). With nearly 31% Muslim voters, an election during Ramzan will become a key issue of Bengal politics in the forthcoming days. Opposing the statements made in the ongoing matter, the EC has said that the schedules of the 2019 polls have been fixed keeping in mind the religious sentiments of the people – which cannot create a hindrance in the conduct of elections.
Opposition Slammed for Questioning
Importantly, The Election Commission has slammed the Opposition for questioning the dates of 2019 polls, while raising Ramzan matter. The commission condemns such statements which can hurt the religious sentiments of the people. The Election Commission of India (ECI) argued that the poll panel has clarified that it has excluded the date of the main festival and Fridays from the general election polling schedule. Further, The Election Commission also stated that during the Lok Sabha polls are being conducted during the Ramzan but a full month cannot be excluded.
Once the dates for an Lok Sabha Election are announced, the model code of conduct (MCC) become operational, which bars governments from making new policy announcements.
On the one hand, Responding to the objections raised by few political parties about the polls overlapping with Ramzan, West Bengal BJP leader Mukul Roy pointed out that the 2013 West Bengal panchayat polls had also coincided with Ramzan. “So that cannot be an issue,” Also, BJP’s all-India minority morcha secretary Arshad Alam argued that it’s not written anywhere in Islam that one has to take rest in air-conditioned rooms while fasting during Ramzan. Nobody has complained about the 1st phase of Elections falling during Chaitra Navaratri, but noises about Ramzan are the loudest. Figure out. Mentioned, IAS Sanjay Dixit.
Whereas on the other hand, The Trinamool Congress (TMC), the ruling party in West Bengal, was miffed with this protracted schedule, blaming the BJP-controlled Centre for it. Meanwhile, West Bengal minister Firhad Hakim argued that the Central government had submitted a false report on the state’s law and order situation, which had led to the Election Commission declaring a seven-phase election. Both of them, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress have asked for the state’s election schedule to be revised given that it would clash with Ramzan, the Islamic month of fasting, which starts on May 5, this year.
Moreover, A Prominent Muslim community leaders on March 11 expressed dismay over the Election Commission of India’s announcement to hold the Lok Sabha General Election polls 2019 in 7 phases, with the three final phases falling in the holy Ramadan month of fasting. And the last three phases of polling are scheduled on May 6, May 12 and May 19. The polling in these three phases shall be conducted for 51, 59 and 59 constituencies, respectively, as per the EC schedule unveiled on March 10.
BJP’s reaction on the announcement of dates for the Lok Sabha elections
Meanwhile, BJP President Amit Shah on March 10 welcomed the announcement of dates for the Lok Sabha elections and sought another term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a series of a statement, he argued that the Modi government had dared to take bold and futuristic decisions for the welfare of 130 crore Indians. “It has struck at the root of corruption and celebrated honesty”. The government will ensure India’s giant leap, where everyone will be happy and prosperous,”. “The Modi government’s efforts to eliminate poverty have shown transformational results. Under the visionary leadership of Modi, India has emerged as the fastest growing economy in the world”, Amit Shah mentioned.
Seven-phase election – Convenience?
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor Firhad Hakim argued that “People will face problems in exercising their voting rights as some poll dates are clashing with Ramzan. Since the Election Commission is a constitutional body, I don’t want to comment much into the matter. But they should have considered that people will suffer during Ramzan (in casting votes).” The seven-phase election will be highly inconvenient for the minority population in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal as the election dates coincide with the month of Ramzan, Firhad Hakim mentioned.
However, Asaduddin Owaisi, AIMIM chief on voting during Ramzan said, This whole controversy is totally uncalled for & unnecessary. I would earnestly request those political parties that please don’t use the Muslim community & Ramzan for whatever reasons you have. AIMIM chief Owaisi on March 11 argued that elections during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan would have no impact on the voter turnout and slammed the political parties for raking up a controversy over this. The Hyderabad MP hoped that the poll percentage will be higher during Ramzan as more Muslims will go out and vote due to the high degree of spirituality they experience during the fasting month.
At the same time, Maharashtra Congress Rajya Sabha MP Hussain Dalwai said that it is surprising how the EC failed to consider this aspect and urged it to examine if suitable modifications in the dates can be made. “Muslims usually go out and vote in large numbers, but this time given the constraints of fasting plus the severe heat in May they may be reluctant to step out and exercise their franchise. If someone faints or collapses in the long queues, who will be responsible,” Hussain Dalwai asserted. Echoing similar sentiments, Nationalist Congress Party Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon has asserted that, “It was desirable that such a clash could have been avoided by the EC,” elaborating that the Ramadan month schedules are known in advance. “Although it may not be feasible to change the poll schedules at this stage, we request the EC to issue directions to all polling chiefs and at least permit separate queues for all fasting Muslims at polling stations so that they can cast their votes quickly and return,” Memon mentioned.
Following the reports, All India Ulema Council general secretary Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi mentioned that, several Muslims have expressed concern over the poll schedules in Ramadan and said they would be grateful if the EC could grant some minor concessions, including shades outside the polling stations, to enable maximum number of Muslim participation in the election process. While Markazul Ma’arif Education Research Society Director Maulana Burhanuddin Qasmi apprehends it may not be feasible to change the dates or even have separate queues during elections, now. Judging from the community’s initial reactions from different states, it seems likely that the turnout of Muslim voters may be drastically hit.
Samajwadi Party state President Abu Asim Azmi said while the voters would be hit badly, even the political parties shall be affected as their entire chunk of Muslim cadre will withdraw from the rigorous campaign work during the holy fasting month. “The final three phases shall be held for constituencies in Jammu & Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh. Obviously, our Muslim cadres will not come out for party work as they fast during the day and pray almost the entire night,”.
Especially since women and senior citizens will not be able to stand for hours in the blistering heat,” Qasmi stated. Though Maharashtra Muslims will vote in the month of April, concerns have come from the minority population in the 169 constituencies across the country which will vote in the final three phases. Despite all of this, Other Muslim activists feel it is strange how the EC – which has considered all aspects like examinations or local festivals – did not take into account the Ramadan month which could keep the minority voters away from polling booths and probably give an edge to certain parties, especially in constituencies where the Muslim votes are crucial.
Three special observers for Jammu and Kashmir
Notably, EC also appoints three special observers for Jammu and Kashmir: The Election Commission (EC) has formed a three-member committee to assess the situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir before it takes a decision about holding the Assembly elections in the troubled state. Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sunil Arora said on March 10, the three members of the committee are two retired IAS officers Noor Mohammed and Vinod Zutshi and a retired IPS officer, A.S. Gill. Mr Arora said the Commission will be “regularly and on a real-time basis” monitoring the situation in the state and the decision of holding Assembly elections “will be taken soon”.
Despite the controversy, Country will vote for the 17th Lok Sabha Election 2019 in 7 phases from 11 April to 19 May.
The counting of votes will take place on May 23 and result will be declared on the same date as per the Lok Sabha election 2019 schedule announced by the Election Commission of India on March 10. India’s CEC Sunil Arora argued that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has come into force as it announced the dates for the elections to 17th Lok Sabha. The code is in place to ensure a level playing field for all the contesting candidates and political parties.
This year, Over 1.5 crore electors in 18-19 year age group will be eligible to vote for the first time in the seven-phased Lok Sabha election beginning April 11 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling upon them to vote in record numbers. These voters in the age group of 18-19 years constitute 1.66 per cent of the total electorate. All citizens who turned 18 on January 1 this year and registered as electors will get an opportunity to cast their vote in upcoming Lok Sabha and assembly elections. The elections are being held for 543 out of the 545 Lok Sabha seats. The remaining two seats are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community which are nominated by the President. Approximately 10 lakh polling stations, one lakh more than in 2014, will be set up and a total of 17.4 lakh VVPATs will be used with electronic voting machines (EVMs) in all polling stations. “The Election Commissioner of India Sunil Arora has attempted a very comprehensive preparation for the conduct of the election”.
Role of Money Power
On the challenges facing the Election Commission in conducting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, “role of money power” is the biggest challenge to free and fair elections in India. Maintaining that the “role of money power” is the biggest challenge to free and fair elections in India, Former Chief CEC Dr SY Quraishi says that while politicians are supposed to be representing the people, electoral bonds have enabled the corporates to run the country. Quraishi, who has just published a book titled “The Great March of Democracy: Seven Decades of India’s Elections” said that there is “much to celebrate” as India proved the sceptics wrong by emerging as a secular and pluralistic democracy.
“No party has accepted these hackathon challenges. Instead, they peddle conspiracies to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of voters, thus undermining democracy”. “It is in this context that Ex-CEC strongly advocates state funding of political parties and a blanket ban on all corporate donations. Such drastic measures are called for, as the problem is becoming worse with every election cycle,”. Contemporary issues, such as the corrupting influence of money and the creeping criminalization in politics, have been addressed, as have been the electoral reforms proposed by experts on these subjects.
Jeopardizing EC’s image is unacceptable
On the polling schedules issue, Ex-CEC said, There has been ample speculation about election dates, with some even casting aspersions on the Election Commission of India’s (EC’s) neutrality in determining the dates. These speculations disregard that EC has to do the due diligence of a mind-boggling array of arrangements to tie up before it initiates the election process. At the same time, governments have to be mindful of public perception. Why keep announcements for absolute last minute when the approximate schedule is neither a matter of astrology nor rocket science? Jeopardizing EC’s image is unacceptable. Finally, the announcement. The timing is extremely significant as the model code of conduct kicks in the moment the schedule is announced. The government is prohibited from announcing new schemes, new postings and transfers, and using government resources for campaigning.
Author: Trilok Singh,
MA in Political Science, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. Professional-Scholar and CEO at Youth Darpan Media, India’s Journal and IASmind.
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