Sixty-six erstwhile bureaucrats have written to President Ram Nath Kovind, expressing their dissatisfaction with the method of announcement of Mission Shakti by the Prime Minister. They seek to question the credibility of the Election Commission of India (EC) for this matter. As according to them, the announcement was a “poll violation”. Along with this they have also cited an issue with the release of web-series “Modi: A Common Man’s Journey and have accused the poll commission of being “lethargic” towards its action in respect of the launch of NaMo TV channel.
The list of 66 ex-bureaucrats who have questioned the credibility of the Election Commission (EC) are:
Salahuddin Ahmad, S.P. Ambrose, N. Bala Baskar IAS, Vappala Balachandran, Gopalan Balagopal, Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan, Pradip Bhattacharya, Meeran C Borwankar, Ravi Budhiraja, Sundar Burra, R. Chandramohan, Som Chaturvedi, Anna Dani, Vibha Puri Das, P.R. Dasgupta, Nareshwar Dayal, Nitin Desai, Keshav Desiraju, M.G. Devasahayam, Sushil Dubey, Arif Ghauri, Gourisankar Ghosh, Tuktuk Ghosh, S.K. Guha, Meena Gupta, Sajjad Hassan, Siraj Hussain, Jagdish Joshi, Najeeb Jung, Rahul Khullar, Ajai Kumar, Arun Kumar, Brijesh Kumar, Sudhir Kumar, Subodh Lal, P.M.S. Malik, Harsh Mander, Lalit Mathur, Aditi Mehta, Shivshankar Menon, Sonalini Mirchandani, Sunil Mitra, Deb Mukharji, Nagalsamy, Sobha Nambisan, P.G.J. Nampoothiri, Amitabha Pande, Niranjan Pant, Alok Perti, V.P. Raja, K. Rajivan, Julio Ribeiro, Manabendra N. Roy, Deepak Sana, N.C. Saxena, Ardhendu Sen, Abhijit Sengupta, Aftab Seth, Navrekha Sharma, Pravesh Sharma, Raju Sharma, Rashmi Shukla Sharma, Jawhar Sircar, P.S.S. Thomas, Hindal Tyabji and Ramani Venkatesan.
The letter said, “We write to express our deep anguish that the Election Commission of India, which has had a long and honourable record of holding free and fair elections despite the enormous challenges of scale and complexity, is suffering from a crisis of credibility today. Hon’ble Rashtrapatiji, we are deeply concerned about the weak-kneed conduct of the ECI, which has reduced the credibility of this constitutional body to an all-time low. Any erosion in the people’s confidence in the fairness of the ECI has very grave consequences for the future of our democracy and we hope that the gravity of the situation will be appreciated by the ECI.”
With respect to PM Modi making public announcement of the success of the A-SAT test, the letter said the country was facing no immediate security threat that required the prime minister, who is an election candidate himself, to make a public announcement.
“On the purely technical ground that the announcement was not made on the public broadcasting service, the ECI held that there had been no violation of the MCC. We feel, however, that parading the achievements of a government in this manner after the announcement of elections is tantamount to a serious breach of propriety and amounts to giving unfair publicity to the party presently in government and that the ECI”s decision does not stand up to the standards of impartiality expected of it,” the letter continued.
In light of this letter, it is pertinent to note herein that a majority of the signatories of the letter have served a major part of their tenure under the Congress government both at the Centre and State. Moreover, they have always been critical of the NDA Government and PM Modi on earlier occasions on various issues.
A few prominent persons of such standing include, Salahuddin Ahmad, Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan. Congress was keen to field him to contest the Kaman seat in Bharatpur district during the 2013 State Assembly elections in Rajhasthan. He was also made the chairman of the State Heritage Conservation Board barely a month before the elections. Congress had suffered a crushing defeat in the state during those elections.
Julio Ribeiro, held positions such as Special Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Adviser to the Governor of Punjab. An honourable man, no doubt but having his political affiliations. He has expressed his dissatisfaction with PM Modi on a number of occasions, including, writing an open letter seeking clear response from PM Modi on Hate Crimes, as well as, writing an open letter slamming PM Modi for his inactions in the Kathua Unnao Rape case.
Another retired IAS officer of UPA affiliations, Jawhar Sircar. He was appointed as CEO, Prasar Bharati in 2012 UPA govt and promptly resigned in 2016 during the Modi govt. He has served as Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Government of India from late 2008 to February 2012, where he reported directly to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Prior to that, he was serving as Spl Secy/ Addl Secy & Dev Commissioner in the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises under UPA govt from 2006 to 2008. Along with the UPA affliations, he also has a knack for open letters, which are not just limited to criticising PM Modi by holding him responsible for the “terrible state of affairs” in Kathua and Unnao, but also the president regarding lack of action against Shri M.J. Akbar on charges of sexual harassment.
A long time loyalist of the Scindias, Najeeb Jung, served as the Private Secretary to Madhavrao Scindia, Minister for Railways. He was a part of the “open letter group”, seeking Yogi Adityanath’s resignation in relation to Bulandsahar’s mob violence, along with alleging the Centre’s decision to push the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament during NRC process.
Also in the list of ex-bureaucrats includes the name of Meeran C Borwankar, who needs to first take a look at her own dirty hands before accusing another. In 2018, the Bombay High Court had heavily come down on her for the illegal act of sending Asha Bajaj to Yerwada Central prison’s mental asylum. The judges said, “We are of the view that the whole exercise of sending Bajaj to the mental hospital was done with a preconceived plan in which the main role has been played by Meeran Borwankar.”
Most of these erstwhile bureaucrats have been signatories of open letters/appeals/statements critical of the NDA Government and PM Modi on earlier occasions on issues such as seeking clear response from PM Modi on Hate Crimes, slamming PM Modi for his inactions in the Kathua Unnao Rape case, letter to Election Commission opposing release of biopic of PM Modi, demanding a probe into Judge Loya’s death, demanding UP CM Adityanath’s resignation in the Bulandshahr case, letter to CAG asking to make reports on Demonetisation and Rafale deal public, amongst others. In furtherance to the clear bias they hold against the current government, they are now wanting to tarnish the name of the Election Commission in the midst of the elections.
Meanwhile, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora is quite unperturbed by these allegations questioning the credibility and integrity of the commission. In a befitting response to Rajdeep Sardesai’s query on being “under pressure” due to the open letter of the ex-bureacrates, Arora stated, “I am sure of my integrity. I don’t need any certificate from anyone who thinks that 60-65 of them have become spokespersons for 900 mn voters.”
Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora regarding the retired bureaucrats who wrote to the president about the EC's credibility:
"I do not need any certificate from anybody who thinks that 60-65 of them have become the spokespersons for 900 million voters."
— tfipost.com (@rightlog_in) April 10, 2019
This has been an amazing response by someone of such high calibre. The ex-bureaucrats however have led the country down by letting their political affiliations cloud their judgment. Back in 1998, the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had proudly announced the Pokhran nuclear tests to the citizens which had received no backlash. However, this time when the Prime Minister attempted to announce another unprecedented achievement related to the defence of the country, the ex-bureaucrats have come out with their allegations.
Election Commission has been an impartial organization, correctly implementing the Model Code of conduct. The ex-bureaucrats however, have admitted in their own words that even if the act of announcing the A-SAT missile tests is not against the Model Code of Conduct, it should nevertheless not be permissible in their opinion. They stated that the announcement was not made on the public broadcasting service so there had been no violation of the MCC. “We feel, however, that parading the achievements of a government in this manner amounts to giving unfair publicity to the party presently in government.”
This is clearly stemming from their biased opinion. On the basis of this biased opinion, the ex-bureaucrats are ironically accusing the Election Commission of being biased and expect the esteemed organization to act on the basis of their own opinions. With all the predictions and surveys foreseeing a second NDA term, the ex-bureaucrats are clearly perturbed. Being Congress loyalists, they are now attempting to influence the citizens by questioning the EC’s integrity. Classic case of creating problems where there are none.