Much ado about code!

The cumbersome, long spell of election related model code of conduct…

In a democratic system to ensure free and fair election of public representatives, model code of conduct for state machinery, political parties and the candidates is not only necessary but provides a level playing field and equal opportunity to all contenders in the race for power. However, at times this long spell of inaction in almost all fields of day to day life for months in a vast and diversified country like India makes many suffer for no fault of theirs. The recent unprecedented hailstorm in Maharashtra estimated to have damaged crops worth millions leading to a sequence of suicides by farmers was a trying situation, where, in the first instance both state and federal governments were unable to help and bail out the suffering farmers because of model code of conduct. As the severe and strict age-old norms strictly prohibit the government and its agencies to announce any package without the consideration and consent of the Election Commission the farmers had no other choice but wait. It took weeks to clear and announce relief measures for dying farmers. There are provisions to deal with exigencies but the slow-moving and corrupt working pattern existing in the whole subcontinent makes the delivery system too sluggish. Beyond standstill mode in governance the whole administration directly or indirectly gets involved in conduct of elections. No doubt conducting national elections in a vast and awfully populous country like India is a gigantic task but more than two months virtual freeze is not less tiring.

With the announcement of nine-phase 2014 Lok Sabha election schedule on 5th March by Election Commission of India the model code of conduct came into force and will remain effective till 16th May. This more than two month moratorium on every developmental planning and implementation leading to a situation of inertia in almost all fields of governance has brought the whole administration to a grinding halt. In a state like Jammu and Kashmir with its difficult terrain and unique climatic conditions two months halt after almost six months winter will prove detrimental in every field of life and will have a disastrous impact on overall development of the state. Nine phase election, spread over more than two months at the cost of millions of taxpayer’s hard-earned money is too big a price for democracy that at occasions is lynched by the self-centered politicians on the streets and in the corridors of power at the drop of their hat just to satisfy their ego.
Almost all the countries in the subcontinent go through the rigorous regimen of long, cumbersome and taxing elections and out of all India hold the biggest and huge election procedure. With due regards to democracy the government and the well-wishers of the country will have to and should consider massive election reforms, above and beyond political considerations. Government has to look into election conducting procedure beyond myopic considerations and should not stretch the sacrosanctity of democracy too long and too far to justify cumbersome election process. Conduct of free and fair elections with equal opportunity to every stake holder has its own place in democracy , but the same system of democracy gives paramount priority to people’s rights and their convenience. Government has to refer the election reforms to some high powered committee that will be in a better position and amply empowered to suggest reforms in existing election system so as to make it compatible with the contemporary era of fast growing electronic age. Unfortunately, the election system of this country could not keep pace with the development in other fields of administration and governance. Unquestionably, the election conducting and monitoring agency—the election Commission is an independent constitutional authority with enormous powers but the political class who wield the ultimate power never allowed it to grow. The age old tradition of a single candidate contesting from more than one constituency apparently seems to be fair and reasonable in democracy but in real sense in this modern age of development and growth it looks mockery of people’s representation. There are many other reasons and gaps within the existing election system that require immediate attention. But out of all these shortfalls the long spell of code of conduct is the most concerning that needs to be curtailed to the minimum as otherwise in a country where political fluidity emerging out of growing collation politics inviting frequent elections will play havoc with its existing system. Lesser the burden of election and electoral process more will be the growth in indisputable faith in democracy.