International desk, May 21: Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee complimented the Election Commission over its “perfect” handling of the Lok Sabha polls on Monday, taking a starkly divergent stand on the matter from that of the Congress and other opposition parties.“If we want to strengthen institutions, we’ve to keep in mind that institutions are serving well in this country, and if democracy has succeeded, it’s largely due to perfect conduct of elections by all Election Commissioners starting from Sukumar Sen to the present Election Commissioners. All are appointed by the executive and they are doing their job well. You can’t criticise them. It was perfect conduct of the elections,” he said at an event held to launch “Defining India Through Their Eyes”, a book by NDTV’s Editorial Director Sonia Singh.
“Institutions are fine, and these intuitions are built over the years. I do believe only a bad workman quarrels with his tool. A good workman knows how to utilise these tools,” he added.
Pranab Mukherjee, who was the Finance Minister in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government before being elected as the country’s 13th President in 2012, also appreciated the wholehearted manner in which the country took part in the electoral process. “As many as 67.3% participated in this Lok Sabha election — that’s more than 2/3rd. And after many years, I got to cast my vote in a booth as citizen Pranab Mukherjee,” he said.
The former President’s endorsement of the Election Commission comes a day after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused it of yielding to the ruling BJP despite having the constitutional responsibility of providing a level playing field to all political parties. “From electoral bonds and EVMs to manipulating the election schedule, NaMo TV, Modi’s Army & now the drama in Kedarnath; the Election Commission’s capitulation before Mr Modi & his gang is obvious to all Indians. The EC used to be feared & respected. Not anymore,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted soon after polling ended at 6 pm.
Through the course of the elections, many opposition leaders — including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president Chandrababu Naidu and Rahul Gandhi himself — had accused the election body of going easy on the BJP. It was also accused of giving clean chits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah despite “irrefutable evidence” of poll code violations.
The Trinamool Congress had turned out to be one of the strongest critics of the Election Commission during the polls, repeatedly accusing it of toeing the BJP’s line while disregarding its electoral responsibilities. Even on the eve of the final phase of the Lok Sabha polls on Sunday, party chief Mamata Banerjee had accused the Election Commission of taking a number of “illegal, unconstitutional and biased decisions” under the influence of the ruling BJP.