New Delhi, May 20, 2019 : Former President Pranab Mukherjee praised the Election Commission over its "perfect" handling of the Lok Sabha polls on Monday, taking a starkly different stand from the Congress and other opposition parties that have accused the election body of bias, NDTV reported.
"If we want to strengthen institutions, we have to keep in mind that institutions are serving well in this country, and if democracy has succeeded, it’s largely due to the perfect conduct of elections by all Election Commissioners starting from Sukumar Sen to the present Election Commissioners. All are appointed by the executive and they are doing their job well. You can’t criticise them. It was perfect conduct of the elections," he said at the launch of "Defining India Through Their Eyes", a book by NDTV’s Editorial Director Sonia Singh.
"Institutions are fine, and these intuitions are built over the years. I do believe only a bad workman quarrels with his tools. A good workman knows how to utilise these tools," he added.
Pranab Mukherjee, who was Finance Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government before being elected as the country’s 13th President in 2012, also appreciated the wholehearted manner in which the country took part in the electoral process. "As many as 67.3% participated in this Lok Sabha election -- that’s more than 2/3rd. And after many years, I got to cast my vote in a booth as citizen Pranab Mukherjee," he said.
The former President’s endorsement comes a day after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused the Election Commission of capitulating to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP despite its constitutional responsibility of ensuring a level playing field to all political parties. "From electoral bonds and EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, Modi’s Army and now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi and his gang is obvious to all Indians. The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore," Rahul Gandhi tweeted on Sunday, soon after voting ended in the last round of the national election.
Through the course of the elections, many opposition leaders -- including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president Chandrababu Naidu, besides Rahul Gandhi -- had accused the election body of going easy on the BJP. It was also accused of giving clean chits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah despite "irrefutable evidence" of poll code violations.
One of the election commissioners, Ashok Lavasa, stopped attending meetings to decide on violations of the Model Code of Conduct over his "minority decisions going unrecorded", correspondence accessed by NDTV revealed. Some of his objections involved the clean chit to PM Modi’s speeches. Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora called the reports of Mr Lavasa’s dissent "unsavoury" and "avoidable" and denied any rift.
The Trinamool Congress was one of the strongest critics of the Election Commission during the polls, repeatedly accusing it of toeing the BJP’s line while disregarding its electoral responsibilities. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, has accused the Election Commission of taking a number of "illegal, unconstitutional and biased decisions" under the influence of the ruling BJP.