UP Election 2017: Will EC rise above politics of bureaucrats and cops to ensure fair polls?

Chulbul Pandey, a small ‘corrupt’ cop of Uttar Pradesh who fearlessly wields power in his territory to get things done, played by Salman Khan in his 2010 blockbuster film Dabangg, was not a figment of a script writer’s imagination. He was a character straight out of the Gangetic plains, where the bureaucratic machinery is used to its advantage by the political parties in power during elections. The politicisation of the bureaucracy and the police force is the reason why completely free and fair elections is a distant dream here.

The politicisation runs right from top brass of the state bureaucracy to district and block-level officers, and sub-inspectors at local police stations (Thana).

The opposition has raised its voice against the practice from time-to-time and now, BJP is concerned about the ‘Yadavisation’ of the bureaucracy and the police in UP.

According to information obtained under the Right to Information Act (RTI), by a Lucknow-based writer Nutan Thakur from the office of the Director General of Police in 2014, the matrix of caste-based appointments as per the reservation policy is openly flouted with an inclination towards the Yadavs.

“A majority of police thanas in Uttar Pradesh at present are dominated by the Yadavs. It can be called as the Yadavisation of police and bureaucracy. During elections, their role is to give safe passage to the flow of illegal cash and liquor used by the ruling party candidates to woo voters. They ensure protection to these candidates contesting the election. There’s a standing order--though unofficial--not to entertain complaints made by the opponents.

This was prevalent even during the previous BSP government. There were serious allegations against the police of being in cahoots with the bureaucracy,” a retired bureaucrat of UP cadre told Firstpost on conditions of anonymity.

An article on Firstpost shows how Uttar Pradesh is a classic example of committed bureaucracy that is intensely divided not only on political lines but also on caste lines.

Akhilesh Yadav. Reuters.

Akhilesh Yadav. Reuters.

“The culture of political patronage by Akhilesh Yadav and his family members encouraged a trend of committed bureaucrats acting like “mini chief ministers” in their respective domains. And most of them have high personal stakes in political outcome,” the article points out.

BJP raises a red flag

Taking a strong objection against such practice, a delegation of senior BJP leaders on 6 February met the Election Commission of India (EC) in New Delhi and urged it to immediately remove the chief secretary and the director general of UP police, besides a few other officials, accusing them of ‘partisan conduct’.

Accusing the Akhilesh-led SP of misusing the administration and its officers for manipulating the state polls, the Union Minister for Urban Development M Venkaiah Naidu and Parliamentary Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi met chief election commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi and urged the latter to take immediate steps for free and fair polls.

It won’t be a first-of-its-kind move in Zaidi’s tenure, who took over as chief election commissioner on 20 April 2015, if he uses powers vested in the EC by the Constitution of India to rein in the state bureaucracy.

In an unprecedented move, close to 70 officials were transferred in the midst of the Assembly elections in West Bengal in April 2016, when the EC had allegedly found officers from the IAS, IPS and the state civil services ranging from district magistrates, commissioner of police, officers in charge of police stations, and block divisional officers, guilty of a bias towards the ruling Trinamool Congress party.

Similarly, in May 2016 during Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu, the EC had transferred nine district collectors and a number of senior police officials of the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government on the basis of the complaints made by the Congress and the DMK.

Why Nasim Zaidi is maintaining a stoic silence over the allegations? 

However, the stoic silence of Zaidi, a 1976-batch IAS officer from UP cadre, who is well-versed with the state politics has come as a surprise to many in the opposition camp including the BJP – a strong contender in UP polls.

“Despite our plea to the EC, why the election commissioner is ignoring the facts and not taking any action is most surprising. A free and fair election in the state is not possible unless the ECI takes strong measures against Akhilesh-led SP of misusing the administration and its officers for manipulating the state polls,” a state BJP source remarked.

Will the CEC, who’s in Lucknow on Wednesday to review poll preparedness, rise to the occasion and take decision to ensure a free and fair election in Uttar Pradesh?

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Updated Date: Feb 08, 2017 18:41:16 IST

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