The Election Commission has been challenged to maintain neutrality in the tense, ongoing pre-poll phase. Making its predicament worse are the multiple raids and search operations by the income-tax department and other wings of the finance ministry, all directed against Opposition leaders, which has led to the inevitable conclusion that a level playing field doesn't exist. The targets of probes and interrogations by the ED or CBI are invariably members of parties in the Opposition, so much so that the EC was provoked into reminding the finance ministry that pre-poll raids must be neutral. Its powers may be limited, but the EC could have cautioned agencies acting only against those opposed to the party in power in New Delhi.
The EC, mandated to providing a level playing field, must know justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. There have been some cases of money for poll purposes, of organising election meetings or candidate expenses, being seized from ruling alliance members, including from the Arunachal Pradesh CM's convoy and a BJP member in Telangana. Senior figures thought to be close to the Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra CMs, and a former Tamil Nadu minister, have faced repeated raids.
We face a lot of hypocrisy in India over the moral battle against black money. While speaking out against it, parties and their businessmen cronies are prone to using such money power to buy votes, a charge parties across the spectrum face. The fact is the money seized is just the tip of the iceberg as businessmen funnel cash to influence polls. However, this can't be fought in a one-sided way by unleashing the government machinery.
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