Delhi Assembly Elections 2013: Slog Over Begins, Poised for Exciting Finish

Borrowing an analogy from what’s normally witnessed in cricket’s ODI (One Day International) matches, the current political situation in the electoral pitch of Delhi may seem hardly any different. Some 10 days to go for the polls in Delhi scheduled for 4thDecember, 2013, the three-cornered contest (Congress v BJP v AAP) seems well and truly progressing in a manner to provide a heart-stopping pitched battle scenario in the run up to the D day. It’s, however, likely to be much more in the nature of a bitter fight rather than an absorbing and sporting one.

Yes, a period of slog over has commenced and things that get characterized during such spells are now very much in evidence. The short-pitched unplayable deliveries – in the shape of sting operation; the full-tossed Yorkers – charges and counter-charges – to hurt the opponent, if otherwise failing to dislodge him from the pitch; and finally, if nothing else works out then capitalizing on opponents mistakes simply attempting running the rivals out – are all being seen to be served by the 3 main rival political parties, day after day.

The way the slog over period is seen being dished out, the on-field umpires – the Returning Officers, the Districts Elections Officers and the State Electoral Officer – and off- field 3rd umpire- the Election Commission of India (ECI) – are truly hard pressed to adjudicate promptly the contentious issues thrown up, on a daily basis, by the main rival contesting political parties.

Take for instance, the sting operation – captured in a CD – against Shazia Ilmi and a few other AAP candidates for their alleged involvement in adopting corruptive means for collection of funds – the very plank against which AAP has purportedly joined the electoral politics to cleanse the system. It’s, therefore, a totally contrasting situation where AAP finds itself back to the wall while its main rivals are not only rejoicing this development but also are apparently going for the kill. Both are demanding AAP to own up the responsibility for such an illegal act and move aside and exit from the electoral arena.

AAP Leader Arvind Kejriwal

AAP, on its part, while responding, has so far conducted itself on a sobering note when Yogendra Yadav, its important member, fielding a volley of questions during the prime time in the national TV news channels on two successive days, pleaded on day 1 (21st Nov’13) for 24 hours time to get behind the fact as shown in the CD; and on day 2 came back strongly to say that the sting operation smacked of foul play as video footage seemed doctored and edited. The raw footage of CD sought for from its maker, ‘Media Sarkar’ wasn’t made available. CD contains big allegation but the evidence is weak based whereon any action against the candidates named therein cannot be taken, he added.

In the meanwhile, as CD has been deposited before the Election Commission for appropriate action against the erring candidates, AAP has requested for an immediate investigation of the matter (preferably within 48 hours). And if any of its candidates are found guilty of the charges made by the media portal, it will cancel their candidature for ensuing elections, it assures.

Taking a realistic view of the sting op and its aftermath, it may only seem conforming to the principles of natural justice that AAP should get reasonable opportunities to explain and defend. Other political parties – Congress and BJP, in the meanwhile, pouncing on to demand AAP getting out of the way may only serve to suggest that they are on a slippery wicket this time round; and that they see AAP as a potential threat in their respective bid to get to the target.

On an earlier occasion AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was questioned by its erstwhile mentor and guru, Anna Hazare for misusing IAC (India Against Corruption) funds received during its movement in 2011. It was alleged that this fund was used for pursuing AAP’s party activities. This, in a way, gave the rival political parties a big handle to beat Arvind Kejriwal with.

Should such allegation, on probe, stick then, Arvind Kejriwal reverentially recalling his relationship with his guru, has politely offered to withdraw his candidature from Delhi elections. Anna seems to have mellowed since then to say that he has never doubted the personal integrity of Arvind Kejriwal and all that he intended to know was a sort of clarification about the alleged misuse of IAC funds.

INC Leader Shiela DikshitAAP, earlier this month, had been charged with receiving contributions of funds from foreign sources – an act held illegal under the Foreign Contribution Act (FCA), 1976. Union Home Minister had then promptly ordered for a probe and the rival parties jumping on to hurl abuses and accusations even though Arvind Kejriwal stoutly denying any wrongdoing in the process.

The reported probe, however, against a new political outfit for allegedly accepting foreign contributions, is rather intriguing. Section 4(1) (e) of FCA says that no foreign contributions shall be accepted by any political party. Section 2(c) of FCA defines a foreign contribution as the one having a foreign source. And, a foreign source, as per Section 2(e) of FCA, doesn’t include a citizen of India.

Thus, glaringly enough, remittances made from abroad by an Indian citizen is not covered under FCA. An absolutely non-issue is made out to look as real one simply to demoralize AAP and, more importantly, to wean away from it the voting class that’s seeking to lend support to a party promising to bring about a change for the better in corruptions-ridden political establishments of the day.

It’s, in fact, to AAP’s credit that all political donations – big or small – to it, as and when, received were duly reflected on its website – a kind of transparency in management of political funds never seen before. That other national political parties have not only felt shy of doing so but have also resisted stubbornly a Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling to bring them under the RTI ambit serves to simply expose the two national parties. It’s to AAP’s credit again that true to its previously announced stance that to defray expenses for this year’s Delhi elections its target was to achieve a total contribution of Rs 20 crores, on achieving this target by mid November, 2013, it is reported to have stopped receiving any further donations.

BJP Leader Dr.Harsh VardhanOn the contrary, look at the way Congress and BJP flushed with party funds reportedly to the tune of Rs 2000 + crores and Rs 1000 + crores respectively with an absolutely opaque system of their fund management, are seen barking at AAP’s foreign contribution issue.

AAP certainly seems to be raising the bar for other political parties in so far as probity in political activities are concerned. Finding the same somewhat alien to their own style of functioning the rival parties are into all kinds of tricks – foreign contribution issue for one, sting operation of the kind noted, another – and many are likely to emerge in the run up to the poll day. Such utterances are basically with a view to resist any change in the system political parties are comfortable with and is also aimed at to pull down a new political outfit that’s by now being perceived by many as a potential game changer.

That India’s electorates are mature has been proved time and again. Delhi seems to be at the threshold of providing a few surprises this time round and that’s what is worrying the veteran political parties. And that may also explain as to why the current slog- over- period for 2013 Delhi elections is likely to witness many more mud-smeared body-line bouncers (read abuses) at each other to sully opponents’ prospect and to promote one’s own, no matter even if it’s unfairly done.

It’s all fair in love and war, it is said. Elections in a democratic polity to get to the seat of power, is no less than a war like situation. And old war veterans know it only too well while a new political outfit may inevitably take its own time in getting a hang of it and coming to terms with it or perhaps, given an opportunity, may like to frame new set of rules for the game.

Predictably, the final slog over – a crunch period of 48 hours ahead of the poll day when Election Commission mandates campaigning has to stop – would be the most tricky and critical phase of electioneering for all the three  serious players. One who handles it adroitly and tactfully takes on to its side an X number of voting class on the D-day wins at the end, that’s pretty obvious. The contest, however, is poised for an exciting finish given the way the slog over is being played.

So, all eyes on Delhi – 4th December, 2013; and again on 8th December, 2013 when X numbers, just noted, get de-coded.

Narendra Bhagat

Written by

A retired I.A.S. officer, Mr. Narendra Bhagat spends part of his time to blog and write for our magazine. He has authored two books.

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