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Sai's Take: Missing T N Seshan

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
Last updated on: April 16, 2019 20:20 IST
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'Just as the monkey god needed a Jambavan to prod him into realising his superpowers, so did the poll panel need a poke from the Supreme Court into remembering it had an armoury of powers at its disposal to stop the infractions,' notes Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

IMAGE: Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora. Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Election time invariably brings out the worst in our leaders, it seems.

From calumny to character assassination, no blow is low enough for our political class which seems to be believe the more rank their utterances, higher their rankings.

And this cuts across the political divide, leaving very few immune to the virus that makes otherwise sane men and women lose control of their senses.

So you have an Azam Khan testing the limits of decency with comments about underwear, and his followers glossing over it saying that it was actually a reference to someone else.

So you have a Yogi Adityanath invoking Bajrang Bali as a counterpoint to Ali.

And you have a Rahul Gandhi making wild inferences from a Supreme Court ruling and getting pulled up.

You even have the BJP chief talking of Pakistani flags in Wayanad, and the prime minister himself hitting the low notes with his utterances.

Why does our political forum resemble an MMA free-for-all when what we expect is a boxing ring with Queensberry rules enforced strictly?

Has the referee gone to sleep?


Which largely was the story of Indian elections till Monday, with the Election Commission of India behaving like the powerless Hanuman before the leap to Sri Lanka.

Just as the monkey god needed a Jambavan to prod him into realising his superpowers, so did the poll panel need a poke from the Supreme Court into remembering it had an armoury of powers at its disposal to stop the infractions.

That the Election Commission of India was the boss once the poll process is announced, needed a T N Seshan to announce to the world.

Give a man a little power to see his true self, goes a cliche. Seshan was given the full panoply as the chief election commissioner, and the compliant bureaucrat transformed into a ferocious bulldog still remembered with fondness by citizenry come election time.

I was not a fan of the former CEC when he put the put the fear of the Election Commission in the political class, and his gyrations once he laid down office, seeking the same political class's support for his presidential bid, proved my misgivings right, but to be fair to the man, India's robust democratic experiment owes a lot to him.

If he were around today at the Election Commission, would the assorted motormouths dare run amok?

But bureaucrats are human, too, and worry about their post-retirement lives, just as the rest of us do. The combined might of the political establishment becomes hard to battle for individuals, which explains why most prefer to go down without a fight.

Especially when you are convinced of the current regime's return to office, you prefer to stay in their good books, and secure a future without worry.

Monday night saw a lively debate on NDTV, made livelier by the Samajwadi Party representative refusing to admit that Azam Khan was in the wrong, and tried to deflect the blame by saying that he was not referring to Jaya Prada but to Amar Singh -- an explanation that wouldn't find takers among the kindergarten set!

Rajdeep Sardesai on India Today TV, back from his culinary peregrinations, was also wrestling with the misdemeanours of the political class.

The Congress, embarrassed at the chastising of its party president for stretching a line on the Supreme Court's Rafale verdict last week -- when he declared that it proved that the chowkidar was indeed a chor -- was visibly upbeat at the EC's gagging of BJP bigwigs.

But it needed a seasoned artiste like Pawan Khera to give it the spin that the action by the Election Commission and Supreme Court showed the vibrancy of the institutions that had been created by the Congress governments in the face of the BJP government's attempts at downgrading them. Really!?

The Congress's Sanjay Jha went a step ahead on CNN-News18 when he asked why the prime minister was also not being barred from campaigning, since the litany of misdeeds flowed right from the top.

Sai's Take

Navika Kumar on Times Now got to interview none other than BJP chief Amit Anilchandra Shah, and did a fairly good job of it, if you overlook the self-congratulatory references in between.

Wasn't Yogi Adityanath's Ali vs Bajrang Bali reference meant to polarise? What action was he planning as the party chief?

Don't stick such words or actions by individuals on the party, we have nothing to do with it. He has said it, and the Election Commission has taken action.

I am not going to do anything about it, everyone is busy in campaigning. The Election Commission is free to take any further action, it is not for us to say.

What was the need to say that Rahul Gandhi had gone to a minority seat, what is wrong if Hindus were in a slight minority in Wayanad?

Where did I say there was anything wrong in him filing his nominations from a second seat, the Constitution gives everyone the right to do so.

When I mentioned that Hindus were in a minority in Wayanad, I only put the facts before the people, as they have the right to know.

You also referred to the IUML flags as Pakistani flags. But it is an Indian party.

I did not say they were Pakistani flags, I said they seemed like Pakistani flags. I don't know what the IUML's flag looks like, and I was not commenting on the IUML itself.

The electoral bonds scheme has gone to the Supreme Court and there has been a lot of criticism about it.

Granted, we are not in an ideal situation but we are in the process of creating the ideal situation. Should we make the effort or not? The bonds are a step in that direction.

Priyanka Gandhi may contest against the prime minister from Varanasi. Are you worried?

Anyone can fight from anywhere, why should we worry about it?

You have once again harped on Ram Mandir, Article 370 and Uniform Civil Code in your manifesto. But what have you done in the last five years?

They have always been a part of our manifesto and we are committed to it.

The Ram Mandir is not our issue, but the people's issue and we only picked it up. Instead of questioning us, why don't you ask the media where the Opposition stands on these issues?

But the interview of the evening was on NDTV, with man of the moment Sunil Arora, the CEC, talking to Nidhi Razdan. The bureaucratic replies trotted out by him, to the hot button topics of the day, showed why the Election Commission has been reduced to a shadow of what it was under bosses like Seshan and James Lyngdoh.

Is the bar on Azam Khan, Yogi Adityanath etc, the best that the EC can do in the circumstances? It seems more like a rap on the knuckles?

We have the option of debarring candidates from the election process in case of violations. Our advisory to the UP CM may seem like a rap on the knuckles to you, but it is not.

The Opposition has highlighted the prime minister's speech as well for violation of the Model Code of Conduct, for abusive content.

All transcripts have been sought.

Smriti Irani had misrepresented facts about her educational qualifications in 2014, it became evident now when she filed her affidavit. What action will be taken?

No action can be taken in the matter, it is up to the parties concerned to proceed against them.

If you take Amit Shah's and Arora's interviews together, you get a clear idea of what ails our system.

On one hand you have the political class that is refusing to accept any wrongdoing, and on the other you have the all-powerful Election Commission reluctant to exercise its powers.

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Saisuresh Sivaswamy /