November 12, 2020 3:20:56 am
The election to the Bihar legislative meeting was unprecedented in a number of methods. First, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was apprehension whether or not the polls could be attainable in any respect. Later, a number of political events clamoured for suspending the elections.
The Election Fee of India (ECI), after preliminary doubts, was impressed by the profitable experiences of many international locations, particularly South Korea, which performed its nationwide elections within the midst of the pandemic with nice success — and the highest-ever turnout. As many as 34 international locations have performed elections to their nationwide meeting or presidential submit whereas being engaged within the battle towards the novel
To depart nothing to probability, the ECI consulted its counterparts in a number of international locations and requested them to share their experiences earlier than deciding to overrule all objections and go forward with the elections. It did properly to check the bottom with Rajya Sabha polls in addition to legislative council elections in varied states below COVID-specific pointers.
Outfitted with such information in addition to its personal experiences, the ECI issued COVID pointers in August for the Bihar meeting polls. In addition to the same old norms associated to sanitising and social distancing, these pointers included a discount within the restrict of electors per polling sales space to 1,000, from the present 1,500, with the intention to forestall overcrowding.
The resultant addition of almost 40,000 further polling stations meant as many further EVMs. To keep away from crowding on the counting centres, the counting tables have been decreased to seven per corridor from 14.
Door-to-door canvassing was restricted to teams of 5 individuals. Convoys of autos have been to be damaged after each 5 autos, as a substitute of 10. The variety of members on the public conferences have been restricted to that prescribed by the catastrophe administration authority. On-line amenities have been supplied for nominations, submitting of affidavits and safety deposits.
The Opposition events highlighted the potential of voter turnout happening as a result of pandemic. The ECI’s reply to this was the choice to increase the postal poll choice to senior residents over the age of 80, COVID-positive sufferers, individuals with disabilities and voters employed in important providers, together with making use of its now well-known SVEEP (Systematic Voter Training for Electoral Participation) programme. A passable voter turnout proved the fee proper.
A priority raised by some events was that digital campaigning, fascinating to maintain crowds at bay, would give the BJP an unfair benefit because the social gathering has extra technical and monetary assets. One other query that was raised was whether or not digital rallies would substitute door-to-door and large-scale bodily campaigning, the soul of any democratic election. Digital rallies have their very own limitations, like inaccessibility to each nook and nook of rural, hilly and forest areas, particularly as a result of web penetration in Bihar is as little as 37 per cent and smartphones are utilized by simply 27 per cent of the state’s inhabitants.
The BJP was, certainly, the chief in digital rallies. Nevertheless, when the elections have been truly introduced, large bodily rallies have been organised by most events, inflicting severe concern to the ECI which later got here down closely on violators.
The fee confronted different challenges as properly — pretend information and hate propaganda. The ECI has been proactive in coping with each. It had drafted a Voluntary Code of Ethics in collaboration with social media platforms, permitting direct engagement between the 2 over problematic posts throughout an election season.
The latest expose by The Wall Road Journal of Facebook’s political leanings casts a shadow over the platform’s neutrality. As per the report, Fb India, on a number of events, was averse to eradicating derogatory posts uploaded by the ruling social gathering’s leaders. This introduced ECI below the lens for unbiased oversight of the conduct of political events and social media platforms.
One unprecedented growth on the counting day was the ECI holding press conferences, not a few times however 4 occasions, to reply all attainable doubts and quell apprehensions and suspicions that come up when the margin of victory is low. Within the very first briefing early Tuesday afternoon, the fee made it clear that, due to the particular COVID-related measures, counting could be sluggish and it might go very late into the night time. Bihar’s chief electoral officer talked about that to stop overcrowding, almost 40 per cent further polling cubicles had been put in place. This meant a further 20-Half-hour for every of the additional 40,000 EVMs. The variety of EVMs per counting desk was additionally decreased from 14 to 7. Consequently, the variety of rounds for counting and declaration of outcomes elevated by 40 to 50 per cent. This clarification preempted fears and rumours of fraud that usually fly thick and quick.
A serious problem that was raised round midnight on Tuesday was about discrepancies within the winners’ lists. Questions have been additionally raised concerning the delay within the declaration of leads to about 10 constituencies. In regards to the former, the ECI has assured complainants that every case will probably be investigated. In as far as the delay in announcement of outcomes is worried, it’s regular to demand a recount of the postal ballots and ask for retabulation of the totals proven by every EVM; this causes some delay. When the margin of victory is lower than the variety of rejected postal ballots, their recount is necessary. The choice by a margin of 12 votes in a single constituency, a subject of curiosity on this election, should remind us of the case of CP Joshi, the then president of the Congress Celebration in Rajasthan, who misplaced by only one vote in 2008 and accepted the decision with dignity.
After going through some severe questions through the basic elections in 2019, that affected its picture, the Bihar elections have been a possibility for the ECI to show its effectivity and evenhandedness to each sceptic. At a time, when all international locations are one another for classes, Bihar could possibly be a number one instance of profitable election administration — and the ECI of a number one election administration company.
The author is former Chief Election Commissioner of India and a distinguished Fellow at Ashoka College.
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