October 3, 2023

Accusations of a sinister motive behind the proposed Bill aimed at regulating the selection process for the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners have been vehemently voiced by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on August 10. According to the TMC, this move by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is viewed as an attempt to manipulate the forthcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, purportedly out of fear regarding the united I.N.D.I.A. alliance’s potential impact.The Bill, slated for introduction in the Rajya Sabha on August 10, envisions the selection of Future Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioners by a three-member panel headed by the Prime Minister. This panel would also include the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, along with a Cabinet Minister. However, the TMC highlights a disparity between the proposed composition and a Supreme Court judgment from March, which stated that the panel should consist of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and the Chief Justice of India.

Saket Gokhale, a spokesperson for the TMC, deemed this move a blatant effort to sway the upcoming general election in 2024. In a Twitter post, he expressed his concern: “Shocking. BJP is rigging the 2024 election openly. Modi government has again brazenly trampled upon an SC judgment and is making the Election Commission its own bunch of stooges.”Gokhale further criticized the alteration made in the selection committee, wherein the Chief Justice of India is replaced by a Union Minister. This change essentially centralizes power within Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a single minister, thus enabling them to appoint the entirety of the Election Commission. Gokhale contended that this modification serves as a direct move towards influencing the 2024 elections, reflecting the BJP’s apprehension about the united I.N.D.I.A. alliance.

Sushmita Dev, a prominent TMC leader, echoed Gokhale’s concerns, emphasizing the significance of maintaining the independence of institutions such as the Election Commission. Dev drew attention to the imbalance in the selection panel’s composition, wherein the Prime Minister’s authority includes the appointment of a union cabinet minister to replace the Chief Justice of India. With the leader of the opposition being outnumbered, Dev criticized this move as yet another attempt to control an institution that is meant to remain impartial and autonomous.As the proposed Bill continues to be scrutinized, the TMC’s accusations underscore the delicate balance between political power and the principles of a fair and unbiased democratic process.