Democracy in Danger: Narendra Modi Govt Targets Election Commissioner Lavasa

IPS Amitabh Kumar Das recounts role of T N Seshan in free and fair election and sees IT Notice to Lavasa's wife as an effort to intimidate EC Lavasa by the Modi led Central government before assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana where BJP is in government

Ashok Lavasa is a retired 1980 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Haryana cadre and is one of the two Election Commissioners of India

The Income Tax Department has started questioning Election Commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa’s wife! The timing raises eyebrows. Next month, Haryana and Maharashtra go to polls. The Modi Govt wants to put pressure on Ashok Lavasa who has stood as the Rock of Gibraltar against Modi’s dictatorial ways. Another Sanjeev Bhatt in the making. Modi believes in the dictum: Jo Humse Takrayega, Choor Choor Ho Jayega! Sanjeev Bhatt, Prannoy Roy, Vinod Dua, Abhisar Sharma, Teesta Setalwad, Amitabh Kumar Das: Modi’s hit list keeps growing. And central agencies like CBI, NIA, ED and IT are acting as his sharp shooters!

The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body set up under Art 324 of the Constitution to ensure free and fair polls in the largest democracy. Before TN Sheshan became the Election Commissioner it was a defunct body. School boys memorised Election Commissioner’s name for quiz purposes. Nobody bothered about his existence. Then came Sheshan, a hurricane, a tsunami, a tornado, a cyclone, a typhoon rolled into one. And the Election Commissioner woke up like a sleeping tiger. High and mighty couldn’t escape the tiger’s claws. In the jungles of the Indian democracy, the ECI roared like a tiger as other animals scurried for cover! Before Sheshan came, the polls in India were dominated by “sandook ” and “bandook“. “Sandook” (trunk) signified money power and “bandook” (gun) signified muscle power. Booth capturing was the order of the day, especially in the Hindi heartland of UP and Bihar. Sheshan, almost single handedly, changed the grammar of politics. The Model Code of Conduct was enforced ruthlessly. A nervous Govt of India made the ECI a three member body instead of the single member body. Sheshan was made the Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners were added to “assist” him. Sheshan went to the Supreme Court but lost his case. However, he functioned like a ferocious bulldog. I still recall Sudhir Tailang ‘s cartoon in the Hindustan Times. In the cartoon, Narasimha Rao (then the PM) declares: I rule the nation. Sheshan retorts: I overrule the nation! Such was Sheshan’s stature. He dwarfed the Prime Minister of India. Sheshan later let the country down when he fought the Presidential Poll as a Shiv Sena candidate with the blessings of Bal Thackeray, Bombay’s biggest goon. But that’s another story.

A toothless body like the ECI grew sharp teeth and polls were never the same. As an IPS officer, I was appointed the Election Commission Police Observer time and again. But gradually, the ECI began to lose its sheen. The former Chief Election Commissioner of India, Gopalswamy, allegedly at the BJP’s behest recommended Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla’s removal for being a Congress stooge. The controversy turned ugly. The President of India turned down the recommendation but ECI turned into a controversial body. In 2012, I was made a Police Observer for the Daang district in Gujarat. Daang is a tribal district which saw anti Christian violence with Narendra Modi’s blessings. Churches were set on fire. I submitted a report to the ECI, throwing light on Modi’s misdeeds. But instead of acting against Modi, the Election Commission gave me marching orders! The story was repeated in 2019. An ECI Observer, Muhammad Mohsin, IAS, searched Narendra Modi’s helicopter.

Mohsin was immediately placed under suspension by the ECI. After a nationwide outrage, his suspension was revoked but other observers didn’t search Modi’s chopper even when it carried mysterious suitcases.

During 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the ECI was flooded with complaints against Narendra Modi for MCC violations. MCC means Model Code of Conduct. But ECI issued one clean chit after another to Mr 56 inch. Clean chits were issued with such promptness that analysts suspected that a special Clean Chits To Modi desk was functioning at the Nirvachan Bhawan, the ECI headquarters. Ashok Lavasa was the solitary voice of dissent. He questioned clean chits to Narendra Modi. He gave notes of dissent. But he was ruled over by two other gentlemen in the ECI. Then, Ashok Lavasa requested the Commission to make his dissent notes public. The Commission refused. Lavasa stopped attending ECI meetings.

Now, with assembly polls round the corner, Lavasa ‘s wife is being questioned by the IT sleuths. The hint is loud and clear. Stop questioning Narendra Modi’s acts of omission and commission. Or your dear wife will be in trouble. The same Income Tax Department looks the other way when Jai Shah’s business grows by leaps and bounds. Jai Shah is after all the putr ratna of Amit Shah, the tadipaar turned Home Minister. Ashok Lavasa’s daughter Avni Lavasa is an IAS officer. She served as the DC of Leh in Ladakh. I am afraid that very soon Avni Lavasa will face some departmental proceedings for her father’s “sins”. Or the Narendra Modi Govt may retire Avni Lavasa prematurely in the “public interest”. I was also retired prematurely in the “public interest” when I took on the mafia. When the mafia rules India, honest officers face surgical strikes.

Justice Loya, the CBI judge, died mysteriously and his post mortem reports were changed thrice. Justice Loya died and Amit Shah was acquitted. Mere coincidence. Harendra Pandya was a Gujarat Minister who incurred Narendra Modi’s wrath. Pandya was murdered. Another coincidence. Sanjeev Bhatt accused Modi of engineering Gujarat riots. He was convicted in a custodial death case. Another coincidence. Coincidences abound in New India. Kindly take care Mr Ashok Lavasa. You have made very powerful enemies. I wish you a long and happy life.

(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views are personal.)

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