IPMIE Bulletin on Elections 2024: Appointment of Election Commissioners, arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, EVM failure, media bias, voter registration

An Independent Panel for Monitoring Indian Elections 2024, has been formed to address concerns of civil society on the upcoming general elections; its first release points out a catalogue of concerns
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Lok Sabha elections 2024 are going to take place in seven phases between April and May, with the results releasing on June 4. Given the challenges of this particular election, five scholars based in India and abroad have come together to form a dedicated panel to independently monitor the general elections.

The panel, named as “Independent panel for monitoring Indian elections – 2024”, comprises Neera Chandhoke (National Fellow at Indian Council of Social Science Research, and retd. Professor, Delhi University, India), Dr Thomas Daffern (philosopher and historian; chairman of World Intellectuals Wisdom Forum; Director, International Institute of Peace Studies and Global Philosophy (France and UK); Convenor, Commonwealth Interfaith Network), Sakhawat Hossain (former election commissioner of Bangladesh), Dr Harish Karnick (former professor, IIT, Kanpur), Dr Sebastian Morris (former professor, IIM, Ahmedabad) and Professor Rahul Mukherji (Professor & Chair, Modern Politics of South Asia, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University, Germany).

According to details provided by the group, the idea behind the formation of monitoring panel is to address the “concerns raised by civil society groups regarding the “credibility of the Election Commission of India, to ensure a level-playing field between political parties, and address grievances of stakeholders, as 970 million Indian voters will cast their votes in April-May 2024.”

The IPMIE plans to release periodic in-depth interim and final reports, based on its monitoring of general election 2024. In its reports, the independent group plans to point out possible violations in the Model Code of Conduct and whether there is an erosion of a level playing field for political parties and voters from different communities.

In its most recent bulletin, which was released on March 27, 2024, the panel has highlighted key concerns that have come forth in regards to the conduct of free and fair elections since the announcement of elections have been made. Notably, the announcement of the dates of the elections was made on March16, 2024.

In the catalogue of concerns, IPMEI had covered myriad issues, from concerns related to the appointment of election commissioners, media bias, to the recent arrest of Aam Aadmi Party Chief and Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal and the data revelations of electoral bond scheme. The list of observations made in the recent bulletin is as follows:

1. Appointment of Election Commissioners: The recent appointment of two election commissioners to the ECI has reportedly been criticised by the sole non- ruling party member of the selection committee, who has claimed that the names of the shortlisted candidates were not provided to him in adequate time, among other “procedural lapses”. Supreme Court too has expressed concerns at “procedure adopted” in the appointments.

  1. Questions regarding polling schedule and voting phases: The long seven-phase election cycle announced by ECI is seen as advantaging the ruling BJP, and its “star campaigner”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. Continuing concerns over EVMs: There are continuing doubts regarding the robustness of EVMs, as expressed by civil society. RTI inquiries reveal a high rate of EVM failure reported by states to the ECI during the 2019 elections. The suggestions offered by civil society to overcome these challenges, such as by counting VVPATs as ballots, have not been accepted by the ECI, in its plans for general election 2024, and concerns around the EVMs have not been addressed in a satisfactorily.
  3. Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS): We also take note of the significance of Supreme Court’s recent judgement on EBS. From the evidence and analysis available publicly, it seems EBS has been used by the ruling BJP unscrupulously, to, among others, put pressure on potential donors. The bonds seem to provide significant financial privilege favouring the ruling party that undermines the competitive aspects of India’s electoral democracy.
  4. Prime Minister Modi’s speech invoking religious sentiments: PM Narendra Modi, in an election speech delivered in Salem, Tamil Nadu, on 19 March, was reported invoking religious sentiments in electoral campaigning. Please see this for example of a media report. We are made to understand that complaints have been filed with the ECI on this alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct, specifically this complaint, reported in the press.
  5. Arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, a sitting opposition Chief Minister: The arrest of a sitting Chief Minister from an opposition political party during elections casts serious doubts over whether a level playing field is being provided to all parties going into the election. This comes after the arrest recently, of another sitting CM from the opposition, Hemant Soren in Jharkhand. There seems to be a clear pattern in using investigative agencies to disproportionately target opposition political parties and their leading figures, which will have a chilling effect on the opposition’s ability to contest the elections freely and fairly.
  6. Media bias: We take note of the fact that most mainstream media has presented an unbalanced picture regarding issues that impact free and fair elections, including electoral bonds, arrest of sitting Chief Ministers. These too have the potential to bias information available with voters in favour of the ruling party, thus breaching the obligation to ensure a level playing field.
  7. Voter Registration: Article 325 of Indian Constitution states:….”no person shall be ineligible for inclusion in any such roll or claim to be included in any special electoral roll for any such constituency on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or any of them.” yet evidence shows that millions of Muslim Indians and millions of Dalits have been systematically excluded from the rolls: an urgent inquiry needs to be undertaken by the EC into how this has happened, and how it can be swiftly rectified.”



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