In India elections are a matter of pride. Barring a small interregnum(,a period when normal government is suspended, especially between successive reigns or regimes.) they have been held regularly and successfully. There have been complaints about many things, but overall, the entire apparatus has moved smoothly – no small success for a country this large, diverse and complex. The voter believes in the electoral process and participates enthusiastically. A large part of this success is due to the Election Commission, a statutory body independent of executive control and interference.
Its concluded elections, however, the Election Commission has been found wanting. It has pulled off the actual exercise without much trouble, but many of its decisions have been questionable, even troubling. The perception has grown that it is biased and, even if this may be not totally true, it is a worrying sign that voters and citizens have come to believe that the organisation has favored the incumbent party.When Modi invoked the armed forces and appealed to first time voters to keep in mind their ‘sacrifice’ while casting their votes, it was not just a direct exploitation of the airstrikes in Balakot, which was unethical in the extreme, but also a violation of the EC’s own appeal to parties not to use the armed forces in their political propaganda.
Restoring its reputation and instilling confidence in the public that the EC — and other organisations — remain independent and untainted by government control will not be an easy task.
Reputations are built over years, decades’ their erosion can happen rapidly. It will be a long term job, but it must be done. Failure to do so will harm Indian democracy and India itself.