TODAY -

Debate over long poll process
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: March 18, 2024 -



THE schedule for the upcoming election to the 18th Lok Sabha was finally announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday.

If not in the context of Manipur, where the people who have been enduring suffering for more than ten months now following the outbreak of an unprecedented ethnic conflict after the Kuki-Chin people clashed with the Meiteis/Meetei over the latter's demand for recognition as one of the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution of India on May 3 last year; the announcement of the schedule for election to the lower house of the Indian Parliament had been long awaited by the people and political parties alike in other parts of the country with great expectation for reasons of their own.

However, contrary to the expectation of the people to see the political parties vying for redressing core issues afflicting their existence like unemployment and price rise, etc; in this crucial election which comes after five years, the announcement of the election schedule has unfortunately led to a bickering among the political parties over spread-out of the election process.

As per the schedule announced by ECI, election to the 18th Lok Sabha is going to be conducted in seven phases starting from April 19 to June 1 and the counting of votes will take place on June 4.

Thus, the voting period for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls spreading over 44 days is going to be the second longest after the first parliamentary elections held between October 25, 1951 and February 21, 1952 that lasted for more than four months.

With counting of votes to be carried out three days after on June 4, wrapping up of the entire election process is going to take 48 days, which, indeed, is a pretty long period of time for all developmental works in a large country like India to remain suspended due to the imposition of model code of conduct of the election.

Interestingly, the bickering among the political parties over the long-drawn election process for 18th Lok Sabha has nothing much to do with the prospect of developmental works in the country remaining suspended for 44 days but the likely benefit one may or may not get from it.

While president of Indian National Congress (INC) Mallikarjun Kharge has asserted that when it could have been completed in three or four phases, a seven-phase election means ”Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to tour everywhere;” Trinamool Congress, which is not happy with the failure of ECI to take into account of its request for holding the election in West Bengal in one or two phases, has alleged that ordering a seven-phase polling is only going to help ”parties with deeper pockets”.

Leaving aside the veracity of these assertions and allegations to the sagacity of the public who are to ultimately decide not only their own fate but also of the country, there is definitely something unpalatable in what Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Rajiv Kumar had said about the dates of Lok Sabha polls being decided based on the geography of regions and other factors such as public holidays, festivals and examinations when asked about the long-duration of polls, and if this long schedule could work against the opposition parties.

He seems to forget the fact that elections to the Lok Sabha have always been conducted around this time of the year even during the Covid pandemic and ”geography of the country, the rivers, mountains, snow, jungle, summers...” have remained the same. We are not saying that the general elections conducted in 2014 and 2019 did not span over nine and seven phases respectively but also alluding to the fact that despite multiple phases, the entire election processes had been wrapped up within a shorter period.

At a time when the proposal of 'One Nation, One Election' is under active consideration by the Government of India, ECI could have at least demonstrated its capability of shouldering the mammoth task starting from this Lok Sabha election by completing the election process within the shortest possible time rather than countering anyone, who raises question on the long-duration of polls, by saying ”If anyone has such doubt, they are wrong”.



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