Hailed as the world’s largest democracy in terms of the sheer number of its electorate, Indian democracy comes with its fair share of faults – not the least being the widespread violation of the poll code of conduct by those contesting the election. Indeed, the growing role played by money and muscle power in elections – a trend more conspicuous in recent years – definitely takes a lot of sheen off the acknowledgement as the world’s biggest democracy. Ironically, it is during the time of elections – the cornerstone of any democracy – that one witnesses a spurt in these despicable practices that undermine the democratic ethos. The ruling party, too, is often found to be using the government machinery to further its electoral prospects. On the whole, violation of the model poll code of conduct by political parties has been a disturbing phenomenon. Now, with the model code of conduct in force in the State, the Election Commission, district administrations and the enforcement agencies need to be proactive in ensuring free and fair elections. This requires the authorities to be extremely vigilant in keeping a tab on the violations indulged in by political parties. The EC in particular has to act tough on anyone found breaching the model code, and one hopes that the parties would be kept on a tight leash till the entire poll process is completed. Political parties are invariably known to exceed the permissible limits of expenditure during campaign – an illegal and unethical exercise aimed at influencing voters and poll outcome – and the EC will have to be extra vigilant and tough in checking this unhealthy trend. Various government enforcement authorities have already made large-scale seizures of cash, jewellery and liquor in the run-up to the polls and this goes to expose the fault-lines in our democratic exercise. However, for reining in mischief mongers, every violation of the code of conduct needs to be viewed seriously and the errant political parties penalized adequately. Past experience has shown that guilty parties often get away with little punishment – something that emboldens them to keep on committing breaches of the code. The EC, therefore, has to be harsh in the matter of penalizing the violators. The unhealthy trend also shows politics to be fast turning into the platform for the corrupt and the criminal. Ultimately it is for the electorate to reject such elements and cleanse the system.
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