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Course and discourse

16 Dec. 2017 11:49 PM IST

Results of the 2017 Gujarat elections which concluded recently will be known by December 18 and the outcome will impact subsequent developments in the political arena where the two main contestants are going to go all the way in the 2019 elections. The opposition especially the Congress focused on the over hyped Gujarat Model which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to replicate at the national level but with often not so desirable success. If BJP wins the election even by a small margin, it would be a tribute to the personal appeal and charisma of Narendra Modi. That is why Modi was the main campaigner for the BJP in which he stuck out his neck and reputation. Modi ran the campaign on a non-stop personal basis to counter the effects of a strong anti-incumbency against the BJP government in Gujarat which gravitated towards Rahul. For the first time since 1995, the Congress looked as a very serious challenger to wrest Gujarat from the Bharatiya Janata Party and, at the same time, cement the position of its soon-to-be president Rahul Gandhi. For the Congress, Gujarat should be a test of political strategy and also Rahul’s capability to take others along. However, in the national scene, Rahul may not find it easy to lead any opposition alliance as he does not enjoy the same rapport that Sonia enjoyed with other opposition leaders. He is also seen as inexperienced and lacking political wisdom and temperament. Modi is a consummate politician who has worked his way up the hard way and now that he is on top, it is unthinkable that he will lay back and let it all go. It is said that Modi treats his cabinet as a vestigial and superimposed it by a super structure called the PMO. However, in democracy all such matters can be tackled by the people through a free and fair election, which is the most crucial organism of democracy. In this regard, there is need to deliberate on strengthening the institution of ECI whose reputation and image has taken a serious battering during the Gujarat election. The ECI, along with the judiciary, have been called “institutions of restraint”, which require that both observe strict political neutrality, bolstering democracy in the process. The ECI led by CEC Achal Kumar Joti, the retired chief secretary of Gujarat has been strongly condemned by the opposition for allegedly being partisan and bias. Such controversies have led to raking up Joti’s biography and the light of the ‘Gujaratisation’ of the Indian bureaucracy in New Delhi. The election rhetoric has seen unprecedented toxicity from none other than the elected prime minister himself, by insinuating that a former PM, with a decade at the PMO, was indulging in conspiracy with a nuclear neighbour to swing the Gujarat polls in favour of a “Muslim” CM candidate. At every point of PM Modi’s gross misconduct, the Election Commission of India led by AK Joti looked the other way. Today, with the exception of the Supreme Court, the ECI is seen to be fearful of resisting the dominating outspread power of the PM. It is important the ECI resists such pressure and also restraints political leaders from crossing the bounds of acceptability. If the ECI fails to do that then there is doom and gloom for the country.

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