When words such as ‘puppet’ and ‘caged bird’ are used for an autonomous constitutional body that has been entrusted with ensuring a fair election process, it has ominous portents for the world’s largest democracy. On its part, the Election Commission may have followed the rule book to slap a notice on Rahul Gandhi (for giving an interview to a TV channel a day before the second phase of polling for the Gujarat Assembly elections), but its supposed fairness does raise a few questions. The EC’s sense of fairness first came under cloud when it postponed the announcement of dates for Gujarat polls, citing incomplete flood relief work, even though it declared the date for counting of votes. This gave ample time for the BJP-ruled Centre and State governments to gift a slew of projects to the State, worth crores of rupees. And, did the EC react when in 2014, a ‘selfie’ flaunting the Lotus symbol outside a polling booth by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi went viral on social media? This time, too, Modi came out after voting and went on a semi-roadshow in an open car for quite a distance, an act that should be interpreted as violation of the model code of conduct. However, we still await the EC to even mildly raise an eyebrow.

Also, even as the interview of Rahulhas led to an EC notice and FIR against the TV channel, the Congress has rightly asked why the EC did not react when, in 2014, Modi gave several interviews between phases of polling. Also, TV interviews clearly aimed at the Gujarat polls have also been given by BJP president Amit Shah and railway minister Piyush Goyal. As money and muscle power continue to rule the roost during elections, and political parties themselves question the rising instances of EVM ‘malfunction’, the onus lies on the EC to ensure that ‘Casear’s wife is above suspicion’. For, nothing can be more dangerous for a democracy than the erosion of faith that an ordinary citizen has in an institution set up to ensure a free and fair electoral process.

Senior Deputy Editor