The Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday slammed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati for calling the EC “anti-Dalit” for its January 8 order to drape statutes of her and of her party symbol – elephant – put up in the State at the government's expense.
The EC “regrets” that such an allegation was made and “rejects” it.
“It expects a higher sense of responsibility and constitutional decorum from major political parties and their leaders. It notes with concern such statements coming from those holding senior Constitutional positions,” the Commission said in a release.
While the EC took all views about its working in its stride, it was disturbed that Ms. Mayawati cast serious aspersions on it, in public, by attributing anti-Dalit and casteist motives to its order (on statutes) and also by alleging that the order was inspired by pressure from some political parties.
“The EC needs to reiterate that it takes its decisions and enforces them within the provisions of the Constitution and that does not include considerations of religion, race, caste and community in the manner alleged. Rather it is one of the assigned responsibilities of the EC to ensure that these aspects are not allowed to vitiate the election process.”
The order was in conformity with the EC's consistent practice to remove photographs and pictures of active political leaders at all public places, put up at the cost of public exchequer, so that there was no undue advantage or disadvantage to political parties and the candidates.
The basic philosophy of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was that the political parties, particularly the parties in power at the Centre and in the States, did not use their official power and official machinery in a manner which might lead to complaints of misuse to influence the voters. “This basic philosophy of MCC has met with the approval of the Supreme Court in a catena of cases.”
On the BSP's contention that the elephant statues were in welcome posture with trunks raised and were different from the party's symbol wherein the elephant was seen with its trunk down, the EC said it was not acceptable. “In that case, other political parties would seek allotment of the Elephant symbol in different postures.”
While enforcing the level playing field, the EC did not take into account statues raised with private funds, whether of political leaders or election symbols or otherwise.
The EC pointed out that in the implementation of the MCC, it did not engage in prior consultations every time, but tried to take early remedial action in order to keep the electoral process on the track. In any case, here the EC was covering a government property, hence the need to consult any political party did not arise.
Looking from whatever rules, facts and reasoning, the step to cover the statues was the most appropriate and available option before the EC, it said.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi told The Hindu that the EC wanted to put an end to the controversy as allegations had been levelled against it on a daily basis. “We wanted to make the facts clear and end it as we have a lot of other work to do,” he said.