A multi party delegation led by Congress leaders Abhishek Singhvi, KC Venugopal, Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief national spokesperson Derek O’Brien, NCP -Sharad Pawar faction leader Jitendra Awhad and others after meeting Election Commission of India
| Photo Credit: ANI

A day after the arrest of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by the Enforcement Directorate in the excise policy case, a delegation of INDIA bloc leaders on March 22 called on the Election Commission (EC) to allege “unrelenting, blatant and illegal deployment of Central Agencies” by the ruling BJP to target the Opposition parties.

The delegation presented a memorandum in which the INDIA bloc leaders submitted a list of 10 instances of agencies going after the Opposition parties since January and the absence of a level playing field in the elections.

The delegation included Congress general secretary K.C. Venugopal, his colleague Abhishek Singhvi, Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) Derek O’brien and Nadimul Haque, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury among others.

AAP leaders Sandeep Pathak and Pankaj Gupta, Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar) leader Jitendra Awhad, DMK’s P. Wilson and Javed Ali of the Samajwadi Party were also part of the delegation.

While the JMM, RJD and Shiv Sena (UBT) could not send any representatives, the Opposition leaders said all parties supported the memorandum.

This is the first time that the TMC has shared a common platform with the Congress after seat-sharing didn’t fructify and the party decided to go alone in West Bengal.

“We pointed out this is not a normal complaint, it is a larger issue of affecting, impairing, undermining, and sabotaging the basic structure of the Constitution,” Mr. Singhvi said.

He pointed out that level playing field is “the heart and soul” of free and fair elections, which, in turn, is at the heart of democracy itself. 

Asserting that the Supreme Court has held democracy as part of the basic structure, Mr. Singhvi added, “The moment you skew, render the level playing field into a non-level playing field, what do you do? You are actually affecting democracy and therefore the basic structure. How do you do it, you use and misuse agencies blatantly.” 

The Congress leaders said that 20-year-old cases are being revived to target Opposition leaders.

“The Election Commission has been given the responsibility and is the police to protect this level playing field. We asked the Election Commission to interfere. In the history of 75 years of independent India, the first time a sitting Chief Minister has been arrested. The accounts of the grand old party have been frozen,” Mr. Singhvi said.

Among the instances mentioned in the memorandum, CBI registering an FIR against TMC’s Mahua Moitra, raids and arrest of leaders of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which is not a part of the INDIA bloc, arrest of former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad’s aide, arrest of Hemant Soren and freezing of the Congress’s accounts among other incidents. 

‘Sinister pattern’

“Therefore there emerges a clear, deliberate and sinister pattern, where the ruling regime is abusing its power, and completely destroying any semblance of a level playing field for other political parties contesting the Lok Sabha elections.

“Never before has such high-handedness ever been witnessed. It is our submission that free and fair elections are not possible in an atmosphere of threats, intimidation and extortion [as seen from the electoral bonds issue being adjudicated before the Supreme Court). The Hon’ble Commission must act and take drastic steps to halt this brazen misuse of the official machinery,” the memorandum read.

The Election Commission assured the Opposition that it would consider the complaint. “We are many parties here from the INDIA alliance. Some of us even oppose each other in our States. But we are here to save democracy,” the parties told the EC. The parties also questioned why no action was ever taken against the ruling party for various complaints of violation of the model code of conduct. 



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