Ranjona Banerji: EC as a watchdog of democracy? Ha ha ha!

04 May,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


The Election Commission of India is the “watchdog” of electoral politics, and therefore of an integral element of Indian democracy. A Constitutional body charged with this vital responsibility.


But “democracy” and ‘Constitution” in India are words, concepts, institutions which are apparently interchangeable with fascism, authoritarianism and suppression.


Thus, mortally offended by remarks made by the Madras High Court about the EC’s irresponsibility during the recent assembly elections (regardless of the truth of those remarks), this august body moved the Supreme Court. The attempt was to gag the media from reporting on comments made in court.


That is, the “watchdog” of Indian democracy wants the fourth pillar of democracy to be disallowed from reporting to the people of India observations made by the Third Arm of our Constitutional system.


Forget irony. This is outright dictatorship.


As it is, large sections of the Indian media have been derelict in doing their basic duty. These sections wilfully omit anything that puts their benefactors in a bad light. Having recourse to court conversations is one of the few ways we the people still have in understanding how our opaque and secretive systems work.


In a small sliver of good luck, the Supreme Court told the Election Commission that it could not gag the media. It also told the Election Commission that it should take these critical observations in the right spirit: “as a bitter pill”.




The biggest bitter pill of course has been force-fed to the people of India, struggling with a massive pandemic and a criminally negligent and vindictive government. Or “System”, as our Modi-friendly universe refers to its own incompetence. And so much of the media is still stuck in lapdog mode.


As for the Election Commission fulfilling its promises, the article linked below, by Piyush Rai in The Times of India makes it clear just how “careful” the counting procedures were in Uttar Pradesh, in spite of the deaths of 700 teachers on poll duty, the subsequent fears and protests and of course, the rampaging spread of Covid19.




The pleas for hospital beds, oxygen, medicines on social media and in real life continue. The infection rate and death toll continue to climb across India. Vaccines are in short supply. There is utter confusion over access, responsibility and protocols. The Centre carries on with its lies (there are no oxygen shortages), and its publicity game (Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are personally monitoring oxygen supplies) and waste of public money (work on the despicable Central Vista continues).





And so, to election results. Did I watch TV? No. Did I miss out on anything? No. Did I giggle at exit polls? Yes.


There’s a screenshot of the all the exit poll predictions for the West Bengal Assembly elections. Not a single one is correct. Even after you make allowances for their “100-seats this way that way” disclaimers.


The correct results are: 213 Trinamool Congress, 77 BJP, 0 CPM, 0 Congress.


Why do we in the media continue with these?


One of life’s enduring mysteries. Even after you discount all the conspiracy theories, most of which involve the integrity of the Election Commission. Incidentally, doesn’t this “watchdog” ban these travesties every now and then? I’ve lost track.


The only good news is that it gives income to people in these terrible times.




The terrible march of Covid-19 in this second wave across India has affected the media community very badly. Many have died, some in the line of duty. Many still scramble to help their families. As a community we need to do more for our own. We need solidarity and means to funds where we can help ourselves when all else fails.


It is the human touch which saves us at times like this.


The Government, which many of us are still scared of blaming, has taken advantage of that fear and abandoned its basic duties.


And yet, to call them out is even more important in these times. Your sycophancy has brought you no favours except for those selfies which are not even worth a word of condolence.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal


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