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URGENT NEED FOR THE ELECTION COMMISSION AND THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA TO LAY DOWN CODE OF CONDUCT

 

 

The din of elections is behind you. You are about to enter the portals of the most hallowed institution of Indian democracy. You have now become the repositories of the aspirations of India's teeming millions, the vast majority steeped in grinding poverty. What do they expect of you? Your foremost duty, before all else, is to apply salve on the wounds inflicted during elections. Forget the past. Look to the future.
In the light of the above it becomes imperative for the Election Commission and the President of India to enunciate model codes of conduct as soon as possible after the election results have been declared and in the case of the President even before inviting anyone to form the government. Some thoughts that need to be taken into account are outlined below; President of India: Once the new parliament is formed with the pro tem speaker in the chair the President calls upon newly elected members and their leaders to solemnly declare that disruption of parliament would be eschewed; un-parliamentary language will not be allowed by the speaker and that all members would undertake to attend at least 40 percent of parliament sittings. Election Commission: The Model Code of Conduct would be strengthened to Include, inter alia, immediate warning to any candidate using un-parliamentary language; leaders of political parties or any candidate using abusive language would be immediately disqualified from contesting that election, (it would be ensured that disqualification does not take place from hearsay but after a thorough enquiry); Offensive language against any minority or for that matter against any religion would lead to automatic disqualification as well. The Incoming Government: The collegium for selection of the Chief Election Commissioner should be extended to the other two election commissioners as well. Supreme Court: based on the level of degradation that was reached in the current election and the impairment of India's national image that has resulted will suo motu take note of the Code of Conduct enunciated by the Election Commission for future elections and the conduct of parliament and monitors implementation from time to time.
In this regard letter sent to a former chief election commissioner over a decade ago remains relevant. (Source "Revitalising Indian Democracy". General Vinod Saighal, Gyan Publishing House, published in 2012, released by late Justice J S Verma).


You have been sent to the capital city to address the larger national concerns; even if you happen to be a person of the most humble origins, from an area so remote that not many people would have heard of it, in taking your seat in the national parliament you automatically become endowed with a majesty that can be diminished only by your own conduct. Be ever mindful of the fact that if you allow your stature to be diminished by unbecoming conduct it is not only you who are diminished. You will thereby be diminishing, in some small measure, the self-respect of every citizen of the country. Therefore, effect simplicity and conduct yourself with decorum. Ostentation and waste are not the culture of this land. While you cannot turn your face from the winds of change sweeping the globe you must not be unmindful of the appalling misery in which the majority of your countrymen find themselves. In finding a mean between the pull towards greater prosperity of the better off segments and the drag of deprivation of others, it has to be remembered that progress does not necessarily lie in bringing down the former. It lies in raising the level of the latter. The best way of achieving this is to empower the downtrodden at the grass roots by providing them greater opportunity. In doing so, do not drive away the talented from your shores; to seek their fortunes in other climes. It is not possible to mass produce excellence. Talent and merit, therefore, must be given their due.

You should not be un-heedful to the anxiety expressed everywhere at the prospect of what was being referred to as a 'hung' parliament or shaky coalitions. Remember, the country is vast enough, amorphous enough, and resilient enough to democratically manage any change that may be necessitated by the threat to its cohesion and integrity. You are the vectors of that change. The mental association formed by the words coalition government in relation to the type of politicians that people have become used to, could have one meaning. It could have an entirely different connotation for a new set of representatives who just might have a changed concept of national security and parliamentary decorum. Many of you, not carrying any deadwood from the past, could decide to first supply a vital dose of oxygen for reviving democracy before bickering about the spoils of office. Should you still get sucked into the quagmire of unprincipled politics it would be worth keeping the larger national interest in mind; in areas which for all national-minded citizens should be forever beyond petty trade-offs. If these larger concerns, relating to national security, education, women's emancipation, alleviation of poverty, environment, population stabilisation and law and order are addressed by all of you jointly, the nation need not look back. If you are conscious of the dangers confronting your country the composition of the new Lok Sabha should give you quiet satisfaction. It could be a time for introspection; time for renewal. The intrinsic strengths of the country are still greater than its weaknesses. The honest citizens still vastly outnumber the dishonest elements. Indian democracy has come to an historic turning point. It is for you to prove the cynics wrong. You have to show the world that the spirit of tolerance is as strong as ever in this land, home to the largest and most varied democracy in the world. The public at large, from the very humble to the very able, are sick of divisive politics. The silent majority that sent you to the Lok Sabha is ready to launch a strong and united India into the third decade of the 21st century. It is for you to take up the challenge and not disappoint, yet again, your long-suffering countrymen who have reposed their faith in you.

There are many things wrong with our country. It has, however, hidden strengths which are not perhaps to be found elsewhere in the world. If you have the patience you too can tap those eternal reservoirs of India's timeless wisdom. If you can learn to drink from these well-springs the riches that will be yours would be far greater than those provided by the coin of the realm. The choice is yours. Choose well.

 

 

 

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