Poll panel chief blinded by class prejudice: Karat

June 7th, 2008 - 12:35 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat has lashed out at Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, accusing him of being “blinded by class prejudice” by disallowing graffiti, posters and flags during the recent Karnataka elections. “The CEC seems driven by good intentions. But the way to hell is often paved with good intentions,” Karat wrote in a strongly-worded article in response to Gopalaswami’s article in an English news daily on the recent Karnataka elections.

“Regrettably, the truth is, the CEC is blinded by class prejudice,” Karat said referring to the poll panel’s attempts to prevent posters and flags in public places and inside homes during the election campaign.

“This makes him go after the poor activist who paints a satirical political cartoon on the walls of Kolkata while merely bemoaning the shameful and gross use of ill-gotten money,” the Communist leader said in the article which is to appear in the latest issue of party mouthpiece People’s Democracy.

Gopalaswami had lashed out against critics of the poll panel’s measures in his article ‘Election, a democratic festival’ in the Hindu newspaper last week. Justifying the restrictions on campaigning, he had taken a snipe at critics by describing them as those who want “spice and colour in the elections.”

“It is not a matter of ’spice and colour’ but the right of political campaigning which is the essence of a democratic system,” he said.

Gopalaswami, by justifying the ban on posters and flags, did not realise that the poll panel “wittingly, or, unwittingly has struck a blow at the right of every political party and the citizens to participate in the democratic process”.

Karat alleged that by stopping graffiti, which according to him is a poor man’s form of campaigning, the Election Commission has “facilitated more expensive forms of campaigning”.

“In recent years, we have seen curbs on such campaigning, while the setting up of big hoardings as used for corporate advertisements is allowed,” he said.

Karat argued that the EC’s decision not to allow people to hoist party flags at their homes was a violation of the fundamental right of a citizen. He alleged that the poll panel had not given permission to the CPI-M to hold public meetings, but “those parties and candidates with money can put advertisements in newspapers and the television cable network paying huge amounts of money to propagate their views all over the state.”

The CPI-M leader also said the commission has not done anything to prevent “rampant use of money” in the elections.

The CEC had written that the commission had seized cans, goodies and liquor worth Rs. 455.7 million in the Karnataka elections. According to Gopalaswami, it was the highest “value (by a wide margin) in any general election to a state in my four years in the EC.”

“As for this blatant use of illegal money power, Gopalaswami can only plead that it is a symptom of a wider malaise. While decrying this danger, he seeks to erroneously defend the restrictions on genuine electioneering,” Karat said.

“Has the EC nailed the candidates and the parties that use such illegal methods as distributing crores of rupees,” he asked.

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