It is sad that the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has personally attacked Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar for his criticism of the Election Commission's performance in the recently held local government elections. In a programme held on the National Voters' Day, Mahbub Talukdar pointed out that there was no level-playing field in the elections and that voter turnout dropped because of the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM). He also brought to the notice of all the various irregularities—violence, vandalism of EVMs, and grabbing of polling centres—seen in these elections. The statement made by EC Mahbub was not personal in any sense, rather it was institutional. Sadly, instead of addressing his concerns, the CEC criticised him personally, saying that EC Mahbub was trying to "disgrace" the commission. Such a comment by the CEC is unexpected.
The CEC, moreover, said that Mahbub Talukdar was criticising the EC for protecting his own interests. We wonder what he could gain by stating some of the obvious irregularities in the municipality elections which have also been reported in the media. Shouldn't the EC be concerned about the low voter turnout in all the recent elections? Also, the CEC's statement about 85 percent voter turnout was misleading since it happened only in one municipality. We also think the EC should immediately address the EVM-related issues that were reported in the media. Moreover, the commission cannot disregard the violence that took place in the elections.
What we have noticed in the last several years is that all the introspective and self-corrective comments came from Mahbub Talukdar only. Up until now, the CEC has never answered any questions raised against the EC's performance. The complaints regarding the elections have not been handled expeditiously. The very serious accusation made against the EC about the misuse of funds in the name of election training has still not been addressed by the CEC.
While the CEC has accused Mahbub Talukdar of ruining the image of the Election Commission, the reality is that the EC has damaged its own image by not being able to ensure a level-playing field for all in the elections and by not addressing the legitimate concerns of the voters.
We think the CEC should make serious efforts to understand how much public confidence the Election Commission currently enjoys. We are afraid it is not at a satisfactory level at all. In order to gain back the trust of the voters, the Election Commission should handle all the criticisms and accusations made against it institutionally, following proper procedures. This is what we expect from the Election Commission.