. Election commission of India is one of the world’s most respected elections agencies. It has historically benefitted from a robust constitutional mandate, which granted the body wide powers and significant independence from the executive. Whereas some developed democracies struggle to implement even rudimentary improvements to their electoral machinery, the EC routinely executes logistically complex elections for millions of voters while relying exclusively on electronic voting machines. But within the past one year, the EC’s judgement has been called into question on several occasions. Consider two examples.
In recent State elections, the EC broke from convention by announcing dates for elections in Himachal Pradesh while staying mum on Gujarat, despite the fact that these two states have followed nearly identical electoral calendars since 1998.
The chief election commissioner (CEC) A.K. Joti’s stated excuse for the delay was a desire not to disrupt flood relief work underway in the state. Several former CECs, men not eager to speak against their former agency, swiftly criticized the move.
A second questionable act was the EC’s about-face on the Narendra Modi government’s creation of a new political funding vehicle known as “electoral bonds”. These bonds create a mechanism for private actors to fund political parties through the banking system rather than cash, but without the actor or the political party having to disclose a single rupee.