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EC expresses concern over "plummeting level" of public discourse

The poll panel has also issued an advisory on the plummeting level of public discourse.

EC expresses concern over plummeting level of public discourse

 Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar

NEW DELHI: Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar on Saturday expressed concern over the "plummeting level of public course" saying the poll panel has been noticing several trends, which are at work, destabilizing the decorum of the political discourse during campaigning.

Addressing a press conference here in which he announced the schedule for Lok Sabha polls and assembly polls in four states, Kumar said that as per Model Code of Conduct provisions, the use of provocative and inflammatory statements, use of intemperate and abusive language transgressing the limits of decency, and attacks on the personal character and conduct of political rivals vitiate the level playing field.

The poll panel has also issued an advisory on the plummeting level of public discourse.

"The Mode Code of Conduct (MCC) is the primary regulation governing electioneering and specifically provides for guidelines to be observed by political parties and candidates in relation to campaign speeches and appeals. Its violation especially in the case of leaders of political parties has a widespread impact on the election process across constituencies," the poll panel said in its press release on the election schedule.

"Apart from the direct violations of the MCC, trends are in play where systematically crafted and timed statements, surrogate or indirect violations using satire to raise unverified allegations etc. during election campaigns, it added.

The poll panel said that the spirit of the Model Code is not just avoidance of a direct violation, it also prohibits attempts to vitiate the electoral space through suggestive or indirect statements or innuendoes. The Election Commission said it has time and again reiterated the MCC instructions and strongly advised and cautioned all national and state parties and independent candidates to exercise caution and restraint in their utterances. It said that in view of the general elections to the Lok Sabha 2024 and other simultaneous elections to legislative assemblies, an advisory has been issued to political parties on plummeting level of public discourse during campaigning. The advisory lays down the expected decorum by political parties and candidates in general and star campaigners in particular.

"It very clearly indicates that any genres of surrogate or indirect violation of MCC and surrogate means to plumate level of election campaign will be dealt with stern action," the poll panel said. In his press conference, Rajiv Kumar also noted that daunting challenges in conducting free and fair elections are "muscle, money, misinformation, and MCC violations" and asserted that the poll panel has put in place measures to deal with these disruptive challenges.

He said the ratio of women voters in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections is significantly higher than that of men voters in 12 states. According to Kumar, the total number of first-time voters is 1.8 crore and the number of voters between the ages of 20-29 is 19.47 crore. "We have 1.8 crore first-time voters and 19.47 crore voters between the age group of 20-29 years," he said, adding that 88.4 lakh voters are of PwD category, 2.18 lakh are centenarians and 48,000 are transgenders," he said.

Kumar said that a total of 96.8 crore voters will be eligible to cast their vote in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. He said there will be 10.5 lakh polling stations and 1.5 crore polling officials and security staff will be deployed to conduct the elections in the world's largest democracy.

The term of the 17th Lok Sabha will end on June 16 and a new House has to be constituted before that. Apart from Lok Sabha, the poll panel announced the schedule for assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. "We are committed to give the nation a truly festive, democratic environment. The term of the 17th Lok Sabha is due to expire on June 16, 2024.

The terms of the Legislative Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are also due to expire in June 2024. Elections are due in Jammu and Kashmir," Kumar said. The CEC was accompanied by the two newly elected Election Commissioners.

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