May 23: A nation waiting with bated breath
by P M Ravindran on 22 May 2019 15 Comments

May 23, 2019 possibly has the whole world waiting with bated breath for the results of the general elections in India. I am not a psephologist but share the feel good factor that makes many predict a definite victory for Narendra Modi. His first term has to be considered successful for merely applying brakes on a nation that was fast sliding into an abyss of everything that a civilized society abhors. While this in itself is laudable, the real positive change that has happened is that national pride has been awakened. Physically, projects like Make in India and the development of infrastructure in the areas of transportation are the most visible. But then, as Robert Frost said, there are miles to go and miles to go…


While demonetization and introduction of GST have reduced corruption to a large extent, it cannot be said that the quality of government administration and justice delivery has improved even marginally. One benchmark I use to make this assertion is the response to applications and appeals under the Right to Information Act. My Save Right to Information Campaign (see Mission Statement at end) has succeeded only in exposing the public servants rather than getting the information sought.


When one evaluates the performance of governments, I shudder to think about the lack of transparency and accountability in the functioning of each and every institution. The worst, of course, is the judiciary followed by the bureaucracy.


Recent events that have shaken the apex court highlight the urgent need to have a National Judicial Accountability Commission with powers to try and punish judges as per laws applicable to ordinary citizens, but with twice the severity. The allegation against the Chief Justice of India was legally a non-bailable offence. If memory serves me right, it was the apex court that directed that the accused need be arrested only if the allegation has been investigated by an officer of the rank not less than a superintendent of police. Maybe such an investigation in the matter of an allegation against the CJI would have been futile.


But did the court follow its own guidelines laid down in the Vishaka verdict? No. The in-house committee appointed to investigate the allegations (headed by Justice S.A. Bobde) gave a clean chit to Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and dealt a death blow to the credibility of the judiciary in general and the apex court in particular.


Another case that may be mentioned here, in passing, is the number of times P. Chidambaram is being granted bail. Social media is rife with speculation whether this will make it to Guinness’s Book of World Records for the number of times an accused is granted bail.


The failures of the bureaucracy, even in the context of the current elections, will suffice to expose the fallacy of it being the steel frame of government administration.


The number of cases of bogus voting in Kerala has been mind boggling. Video clips from CCTVs installed in a few problematic booths have gone viral and some of these violations have been confirmed by the State Electoral Officer. But there is a video of a Marxist party member claiming that though a few cases have been exposed due to the stupidity of the bogus voters who had been adequately briefed earlier, there are many cases that will never be detected. (This video, available at is in Malayalam). The latest report confirms re-polling in 4 booths, a first time in Kerala, and reminiscent of the rampant booth capturing in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in the 1970s and 80s.


One bogus voter was identified as a member of a local self-government body; the CEO recommended that she be removed from office. The State Election Commissioner has refused to do it. His arguments are ludicrous. He has reportedly stated that it could be done only if a court has convicted the accused for misbehavior or impersonation and even that should be reported to the Commission by a voter within the jurisdiction of that local body or the secretary of that local body or an officer empowered by the government for that purpose. One wonders whether it is the laws that are dubious or the public servants administering them.


While the law is clear that private property can be used for campaigning by candidates only with the approval of the owner, come elections and both public and private properties that are not occupied are treated like the candidates’ own. Of course some walls of even occupied properties are booked in advance, with or without the permission of the owners.


I have had the horror of finding the walls of the land adjoining my house defaced by a candidate.

(See ‘Elections: The dance of democracy or...’ at


The land being in the names of my children, who are away, I complained to all the authorities: District Electoral Officer, Chief Electoral Officer of the State and the Central Election Commission. The Central Election Commission responded with a perfunctory ‘your complaint has been forwarded to the concerned authorities’, but there has been no response to the query seeking the designation and address of these concerned authorities. A team, under a Junior Superintendent from the Revenue Divisional Office, came and made some inquiry, but no formal communication has been received from anybody so far.


As usual, there have been reports in the media of anti-defacing squads defacing the defaced walls or removing unauthorized hoardings. But this is obviously not even a miniscule of what is required. Even an RTI query on recovery of dues from the candidates, for this symbolic effort by the anti defacing squads during the last general elections has not elicited any valid response.


The next cause of concern is the plethora of complaints of Model Code of Conduct violations by the candidates, parties and their proxies. The most important has been of the Congress president and Amethi candidate, Rahul Gandhi blatantly lying about the apex court indicting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale fighter jet deal. Apparently, only the contempt of court issue was taken up by the petitioner and not the defamation of the Prime Minister who is also a candidate. Though the court is yet to give its final decision on the petition, it was astonishing that the court gave more than one opportunity to the respondent to apologise. Though finally an apology has been tendered, Rahul Gandhi has been going around declaring that it was only to the court.


Rahul Gandhi got another slap on his face when Oxford Dictionary officials rebutted a false claim by him (or his dirty tricks department) that there was a new word introduced in the dictionary as ‘modilie’ (‘Oxford Dictionary calls Rahul Gandhi's bluff on new word Modilie’,


Violation of the model code of conduct reached a new low with Priyanka Vadra encouraging children to repeat the lie ‘chowkidar chor hai’.


Whatever Narendra Modi has done during his first term can mostly be considered as setting the stage only. He has certainly done a good job in managing the available resources with the rusted tools bequeathed to him. The fresh mandate will enable decisive steps to make institutions of governance transparent, accountable, effective and efficient.



Save Right to Information Campaign

Mission Statement

‘Save Right to information. Use Right to Information Act.

Get information or.... expose at least three idiots/traitors* among public servants.

1. The Public Information Officer,

2. The First Appellate Authority (and head of public authority where the head of the public authority is not the FAA) and

3. The Information Commissioner


(*An idiot is one who does not know the job s/he is getting paid to do and a traitor is one who knows it but does not do it)

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