Supreme Court’s message on Chandigarh mayoral polls: You can’t game democracy – DollarJob

Supreme Court’s message on Chandigarh mayoral polls: You can’t game democracy

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Chandigarh, the City Beautiful, has often struggled for the spotlight. Today, it has been thrust into it. The Supreme Court’s direction on the city’s mayoral election has delivered a huge message: You can’t game democracy. In the electoral process, the ends do not always justify the means. A victory at any cost could come back to defeat you in a manner most ignominious.

The post of Chandigarh Mayor is largely titular. S/he is also not the most celebrated elected representative of the city; this adulation is reserved for its Member of Parliament. Not many in the city were watching the election slated for January 18, until AAP leader Raghav Chadha announced an alliance with Congress — the two parties are at daggers drawn in Punjab — and declared it the first win for the INDIA bloc, a political coalition. The results seemed to be a foregone conclusion considering the alliance had 20 votes, while the BJP had 15, including that of its MP Kirron Kher, in a house of 35. But it turned out to be just the beginning of a long and torturous battle. The city, which is fast turning into a cultural melting pot, watched with dismay as both sides accused each other of violence, abduction, abuse of power and horse-trading.

The polling was postponed at the last minute because the returning officer, Anil Masih, also then the chief of the city BJP’s minority cell, called in sick with a backache. The scene then shifted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which rescheduled the polls to January 30. The polling, duly videographed, threw up a surprise win for BJP’s mayoral candidate and a screenshot of Masih looking into the CCTV camera while scribbling on the ballot papers. The AAP-Congress alliance rushed to the High Court once more, which refused to stay the elections. It was then that the matter reached the Supreme Court where Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud watched the video of Masih and called it a “mockery of democracy”.

In the fortnight that followed, Masih was removed from his party post. On the eve of the elections, the BJP sprang another surprise when three AAP councillors joined the party while its mayor resigned. The party appeared to have set the stage for a potential victory in the event of a re-election. But the apex court counted the old ballot papers and declared the alliance candidate the winner as the 8 votes declared invalid by Masih were all in favour of the alliance candidate.

Even as the alliance, which seemed to be on the verge of breaking at one point, celebrates its victory, there are murmurs that all is not over. That there are road bumps ahead. That everyone has a price.

Festive offer

But for now, democracy has won. The verdict has given new hope to all those who had begun to despair in the face of the ill-found belief that victory can be managed through means more foul than fair. No matter how cynical we, the people, may have become, such interventions restore our faith in the power of elections. We, the people, voted for these councillors, and they should certainly be able to vote without fear or favour.

manraj.grewal@expressindia.com



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