We are herewith releasing the full text of the letter addressed the Election Commission of India by CPI(M) Polit Bureau Member, Nilotpal Basu.
For CPI(M) Central Committee Office
July 2, 2020
Shri Chandra Bhushan Kumar
Dy. Election Commissioner
Election Commission of India
We have received your reply to the letter sent by Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary, CPI(M) to the Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Sunil Arora.
- You have stated that our letter was first made widely available to the media before being received by the Commission. I would like to put the facts straight. It was only after the letter was delivered at the Commission, duly stamped on a copy indicating receipt, was our letter made available to the media. A correction, I think, is in order.
- The CPI(M) General Secretary’s letter does not say that the Commission invoked Article 324 of the Constitution to the extension of postal ballot facility. On the contrary what the letter says is:
“In the past, the ECI, despite the wide ranging and comprehensive powers under Article 324 for ‘control and superintendence’ of elections mandated by the Constitution, has always insisted that they will not exercise this power unilaterally. This had created an extremely healthy precedent of recognising the political parties, representing the people, as principal stake holders. They have been invariably involved in forging a consensus while ushering in changes in the procedures for the conduct of elections. It will be pertinent to recall that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), a major electoral reform, was arrived at through the consensus of the entire spectrum of political parties. Even though this is not backed by statutory empowerment, it has never been questioned. This practice has reinforced transparency in the system earning widespread appreciation”.
The letter in fact lauded the precedent established by the Commission over the last seven decades, which, however, has not been followed in this instance.
- The CPI(M) is aware of a meeting called by the Chief Electoral Officer of Bihar where this was one among the many issues that was raised. This issue was raised not for eliciting any opinion but as information of a decision of the Commission. In any case, a meeting of the Chief Electoral Officer of a state with state level political parties is no substitute for dispensing with national level consultations on a procedure applicable to the entire country. Hence, the reference to the Bihar meeting is not tantamount to any consultation with political parties at the national level in view of the fact that the commission decision for the facility of postal ballot is applicable all over the country.
- Your letter states that since March 24, 2020 midnight, guidelines have been issued for the extension of postal ballot facility. This is precisely the point that the CPI(M) General Secretary is making. A consultation with the political parties at the national level, perfectly feasible through the use of digital technologies, should have preceded, as has been the normal practice during the past seven decades.
The CPI(M) only urges the Commission to adhere to its own enlightened practice that it had evolved over the seven decades of independent India and uphold the healthy precedent of forging consensus among political parties before ushering any change in the procedures for the conduct of elections.
Member, Polit Bureau