EC slams the new political norm of winning at all cost

The election commission has expressed serious concern over political parties using any means to win elections, with the Election Commissioner O P Rawat lamenting that winning at all cost has become the new normal in politics.

He said political parties tend to eschew all ethical considerations when winning at all costs becomes the new normal in electoral politics. Rawat has said poaching of legislators has been hailed as smart political management.

''Strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation, etc, are all commended as resourcefulness,'' he said while addressing 'Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms' organised by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Rawat's comments against the 'creeping new normal of political morality' in the country came days after the Election Commission's decision to reject votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs, who displayed their ballots in an open defiance of the electoral code of conduct, in the politically crucial Rajya Sabha polls.

''Democracy thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs - to the exclusion of ethical considerations,'' he said in his keynote address.

''The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality. It is this creeping 'new normal' of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better election, a better tomorrow,'' he said.

Earlier, EC had sought more powers to initiate contempt proceedings against some political parties, which take advantage of the freedom of expression and make wild allegations against it without any credible evidence.

In a letter written in April, the Commission had urged the law ministry to amend the election laws so that it can use 'Contempt of Court' Act against such parties.

Earlier, Delhi chief minister and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal had questioned the impartiality of Election Commissioner Rawat and Chief Election Commissioner A K Joti.

Rawat also spoke against the practice of paid news and said that it should be made an electoral offence punishable by two years of imprisonment.

Apart from calling for a limit on the election expenditure of political parties, he reiterated the Commission's reservations on proposed electoral bonds and the amendment to the Representation of the People Act which permits political parties to not disclose details of donors contributing funds through electoral bonds.

Electoral bonds will help political parties avoid direct dealing with donors as the money is raised from the market. It also helps circumvent the disclosure clause for higher amounts donated to a party.