Election Commission of India (ECI), Elections, India, Stories
 

Review: More than 400 Major MCC Related Complaints Filed by Political Parties in First Two Months of 2024 General Elections

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MCC complaints typically come from the general public, political parties, media, and other sources, including independent candidates, BLOs, and government officers. In the ongoing 2024 General Elections, during the first two months of the enforcement of MCC, the Congress has filed 170 complaints, followed by the BJP at 95 complaints, and others cumulatively at 160 complaints. 

The series of articles on the Indian Elections offered valuable insights into various facets of the electoral process. One of the key topics was the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). We delved into the origins of the MCC, its evolution over time, and the methods of data collection and reporting. In addition to this background, we analysed statistics on MCC cases from the last two general elections. We also included some preliminary information related to the ongoing election, specifically covering the first month of MCC enforcement.

Recently, the Election Commission of India (ECI) released its second Suo motu report on the enforcement of the MCC during the first two months of the 2024 General Elections. In this article, we will examine this newly released report.

Congress tops in MCC complaints in the ongoing elections.

MCC complaints typically come from the general public, political parties, media, and other sources, including independent candidates, BLOs, and government officers. Political parties, in particular, serve as a crucial check and balance system to ensure that all parties uphold a fair playing field during elections.

In the ongoing General Elections, during the first two months of the enforcement of MCC, the Congress has filed 170 complaints, followed by BJP at 95 complaints, and others cumulatively at 160 complaints.  A total of 425 complaints have been filed in total, out of which action has been taken in 400 cases, i.e. 94% complaints. 

The complaints more than doubled compared to the first month of enforcement. During the first month of enforcement, approximately 200 violation cases were reported, with action taken on 169 of them. The BJP filed 51 complaints, the INC filed 59, and other parties accounted for 90 cases. Out of these, actions were taken in 38 cases filed by the BJP, 51 by the INC, and 80 by other parties.

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193% growth in complaints from cVIGIL App, compared to the 2019 General Elections.

Since the announcement of the 2024 General Elections, a total of 268,080 complaints have been filed on cVIGIL, the Commission’s portal for citizen-reported violations, during the first month of MCC enforcement. Action was taken on 267,762 cases, with 92% resolved in an average of less than 100 minutes. In the second month, complaints increased by 58%, totalling 422,432. Action was taken on 422,079 (99.9%) of these cases, with 88.7% resolved in an average time of less than 100 minutes as per the information released by the ECI.

In contrast, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saw just over 142,000 complaints on cVIGIL. The current number of complaints represents an increase of approximately 200% compared to the 2019 General Elections and is expected to continue growing.

ECI’s revised approach to handling violations by Star Campaigners

In a shift from its previous practice of issuing notices to individual leaders for MCC violations, the Election Commission has introduced a new approach. In an advisory dated 1 March 2024, the Commission urged Party Presidents, Chairpersons, and General Secretaries of all recognized political parties to instruct their leaders, candidates, and star campaigners to avoid making speeches or statements that directly or indirectly violate the MCC. 

The Commission has put star campaigners and candidates who commit violations using previously known methods to circumvent the MCC during elections on a ‘notice’. According to the advisory, the Election Commission will evaluate any indirect MCC violations as a fair basis for revising the notices in terms of timing and content for the upcoming elections.

This change emphasizes the party’s primary responsibility to prevent their star campaigners from committing violations, aiming to increase the political party’s accountability for ensuring MCC compliance among all their members.

During the ongoing elections, the Election Commission issued notices  to the Presidents of major parties, INC and BJP, on alleged violations by star campaigners on same day, 25 April 2024. Recently, the Commission had sent directions to the Presidents of both National Parties, i.e. BJP and INC on the same day, 22 May 2024.

Some actions taken by the Commission during the first two months of enforcement of MCC:

Depending on the severity of offences and violations involved, the ECI acts on the complaints either Suo-motu or when received from different stakeholders. The following figure highlights the major/severe actions initiated by ECI during the first two months of MCC enforcement.

Marred by allegations of bias in handling MCC violations, ECI remains under scanner.

Despite many actions on MCC violations, the ECI is alleged to have maintained a blind eye to the major divisive speeches and unverified allegations by major star campaigners of the National Parties, BJP and INC. Even if the action is initiated, the time period between the complaint and the action is longer, given the lengthy stretch of elections. It is high time that the ECI comes up with a detailed SoP in dealing with complaints & disposal to maintain the trust reposed by common public on its functioning.

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