EC guidelines hit small campaigners

Sudipto Mondal

MANGALORE: Owing to the strictures of the Election Commission on campaigning, the only pervasive evidence of electioneering process can be found in the media. In stark contrast to previous elections, where the campaigning in the streets had reached a raucous crescendo by this time, there is only a muffled call for support now from candidates on the campaign trail.

While there are those who see this development as reformative, many feel that it is undesirable and undemocratic.

Political parties, for one, are united in their displeasure over the Election Commission’s “clampdown” on campaigning.

Speaking to The Hindu, State Secretariat member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) G.N Nagaraj said the restrictions on campaigning had narrowed down the contest to just to two or three parties.

“The Election Commission’s guidelines only aid the hegemony of big and established parties,” he says.

Referring to the ban on the display of posters and buntings, he asks, “How else would a voter know that there might be an alternative other than the Congress, BJP or the JD(S)?” Arguing that big and powerful leaders are always hitting the headlines in the mainstream media, he says that outdoor canvassing was the only affordable form of communication for independents and small parties.

Reacting to the fact that many people have welcomed the commission’s moves, Mr. Nagaraj concedes that there is an urge among the people to see electoral reforms in this country. But he adds: “The commission has used this ‘urge’ of the people to deform electioneering process.”

He feels that some of the clampdown infringes on the electorate’s right to information about their candidates.

He feels that it is wrong for people to assume that the treatment is equal to all the contestants.

“It is more equal for the leaders of the pack. It robs the minnows of an equal opportunity,” he says.

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