“One Nation One Poll is not possible without Amendment of the Constitution”

Lalit Shastri

Bhopal: Dispelling all doubts, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat today (29 August 2018) categorically stated that the concept of “One Nation One Poll” cannot be implemented without amending the Constitution.

The Chief Election Commissioner was addressing media-persons in the State capital.

Simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies had become a serious topic of discussion both in political circles and the among the people after ruling Bharatiy Janata Party President Amit Shah not only gave voice to this demand but even wrote to the Law Commission earlier this month (13 August 2018) to push the case for simultaneous elections.

Rawat also made a major announcement today. It is significant for Madhya Pradesh, the central Indian State that goes to polls later this year. He announced that the Citizen’s Vigilance Application will be put in use during the general election for the State Assembly. It was earlier used on a trial basis in Bengaluru. Action will be taken within 100 minutes, in response to any complaint lodged by using this application, the CEC said adding the complainant will also receive information about the action taken.

The Citizen’s Vigilance App would be a major leap forward when it comes to combating the menace of bogus voting, booth capturing and intimidation of voters by those who have always been bent upon rigging and subverting the election process. Poll rigging has been a major problem in States like West Bengal and Bihar. I can never forget how people opposing booth capturing were gunned down in the Nawada Assembly constituency of Bihar when the State went to polls in 1977 right after Emergency. On polling day in Nabinagar Assembly Constituency in the next phase of polling, gun toting goons with their faces covered were all over and had instilled so much fear that no one had the guts to object when minors, and there were so many of them, had been engaged for casting bogus votes. It was not the least surprising that there was no one to stop them. I was present on the spot and was a witness to all this. When I tried to intervene, an armed ruffian reminded me of what had happened at Nawada in the first phase of polling. At this moment, I saw the district magistrate’s Jeep coming towards the polling station. So I ran towards the dirt track to stop the officer and lodge a complaint. I could succeed in stopping and narrating to him what was happening barely a few yards away. To my bewilderment, he told me that since he was in a hurry and had to reach somewhere, I should submit a written complaint at his office -the Aurangabad district headquarters that was more than 50 kms from that spot. This was the response from an officer entrusted with the constitutional responsibility to conduct the elections when polling was about to end on that fateful day.

During successive elections, there has been no dearth of pockets and polling booths in even in Madhya Pradesh, where poll-rigging has raised its ugly head, often resulting in violence and the problem is not been restricted only to the polling day.

Many candidates resort to bribing or they intimidate the voters during electioneering. Speeches are made to instigate, foment trouble, divide society and defame rivals without basis.  It has also been noticed how the politically powerful continue to campaign even after the curtain comes down on electioneering 48 hours before polling with total connivance of the district administration. When  upright officers try to stop this, they end up facing dire consequences.  (check for example: Did Diwan Get Special Training)

Even helicopters are used covertly during electioneering and this is not brought on record by some candidates when it comes to showing electoral expenses. This happens when the district collectors/electoral officers go out of their way and turn a nelson’s eye and compromise on the objective of ensuring free and fair polls.

I recall once a district collector had told me when I met him while covering an election as a journalist in the Gwalior division a few years ago that he had been asked by the Election Commission to send a report as there was a complaint regarding the unlimited use of helicopter by a resourceful and powerful candidate. He had the audacity to say when the helicopter in question was taking off within hearing distance right at that moment that he was going to send a reply that he had not seen any helicopter being used by any candidate.

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