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Should Incumbent Ministers and Chief Ministers Campaign for Civic Body Polls?


As of late, it has been observed that many charismatic leaders across major political parties of India, who happen to be incumbent Ministers of Union and Chief Ministers, have started campaigning even for civic body polls for their favoured candidates. However, should these individuals holding constitutional offices really campaign for their parties?

Constitution of India has instituted Election Commission of India as per Article 324 for conduction of free & fair elections in the country including those of Legislative assembly and Legislative council. There also exist the State Election Commissions for conducting the free & fair elections to the local bodies of the state.  

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As per practice, the Election Commission of India issues a formal notification declaring the schedule for conducting a particular election along with the enforcement of the Code of Conduct to ensure free & fair election. This code of conduct prescribed guidelines, Do’s and Don’ts, and also imposes certain restrictions on those involved in the election process so as to ascertain the process of the electioneering does not get influenced by the Government machinery.

It has been seen since the very first election in independent India that those holding constitutional offices, like the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers, and Ministers are incessantly engaged in election canvassing.

This is worthwhile to note that the Ministers take the oath of office that explicitly prohibits them from having any favour and ill-will against anyone. The text of the oath of office for a Minister of the Union has been reproduced as under;

"I, (name), do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as a Minister for the Union and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will."

This oath of office is a solemn vow!

The careful reading of the oath of office shows that the person swearing-in for a particular office can not have any kind of favour or ill-will against anyone.

Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath campaigning for BJP candidates ahead of GHMC civic body polls in Hyderabad.
Source: Hindustan Times | PTI

But, the election canvassing encompasses the appeal to voters for casting their vote in favour of the candidates in the fray. Thence, even those holding constitutional offices also canvass for seeking votes for the contestants belonging to the political party of their allegiance. Sometimes, the appeals are so fervent that the names of leaders from other contesting political parties are openly taken and criticized with a lot of ill-will. The process of canvassing witnesses all kinds of arguments against the candidates/political parties in the fray and, thus, disfavour and ill-will are demonstrated.

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It is worthy to note that all those holding constitutional posts and who take the oath of office are under obligation to treat all citizens alike across the country as the office held by them do not belong to any political party. For example, all the Ministers, Chief Ministers, and Prime Minister are equally responsible for all citizens irrespective of the state. So, the canvassing for certain candidates belonging to their political party prima-facie pitches up incoherent with the oath of office taken by them.

Telangana CM KCR campaigning for GHMC Polls.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao – an incumbent – campaigning for TRS, ahead of the GHMC civic body elections.
Source: The New Indian Express | Photo | Vinay Madapu

Philosophically, this seems a case of the favour and ill-will against opposite candidates and political leaders by the persons holding constitutional offices, thus the non-observance of the oath appears to be done.

Similarly, the canvassing by incumbent Chief Minister and Ministers in their respective state’s local body elections, etc. in favour of a candidate is also purportedly the contravention of the oath of office administered to them. Chief Minister and Ministers in the state have to be non-partisan for its all citizens and any bias on their part may tacitly vitiate the process of Governance in the respective state.

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However, a careful distinction needs to be made here. A declaration of elections which makes an incumbent CM/Minister/PM a ‘caretaker’ should be handled differently. In such elections where these ‘caretaker’ ministers themselves require to be elected again, they should be allowed to campaign for themselves and their party.

Incumbent Prime Minister Modi campaigning for the 'Lotus' during the Bihar Assembly Elections of 2020
Incumbent Prime Minister Modi campaigning for the ‘Lotus’ during the Bihar Assembly Elections of 2020. Source: Zee News

As of late, it has been observed that many charismatic leaders across major political parties of India, who happen to be incumbent Ministers of Union and Chief Ministers, have started campaigning even for civic body polls for their favoured candidates. This, certainly, shouldn’t be an essential ingredient in the Indian electioneering practices. There are two reasons for that: firstly, the oath of office seems violated; and secondly, the elections don’t quite remain a level playing field any more for the local leaders!

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Some brainstorming is required for devising modalities to predispose any discernible biases on the part of those holding constitutional offices through the oath of office. Necessarily, the electioneering process has to be devoid of the plausibility of perceivable favour for some and disfavour for the other.   

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are of the author solely. TheRise.co.in neither endorses nor is responsible for them.

About the author

Prateek Yadav is pursuing B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur. He is an active member of Students' Opinion Society at IIT Kanpur and interested in the political affairs in general and Indian politics in particular.


Prateek Yadav

Prateek Yadav is pursuing B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kanpur. He is an active member of Students' Opinion Society at IIT Kanpur and interested in the political affairs in general and Indian politics in particular.

8 thoughts on “Should Incumbent Ministers and Chief Ministers Campaign for Civic Body Polls?

  • 29 November 2020 at 1:40 pm
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    It is very clear that the motivation for a general argument (that incumbent ministers should not be involved in electioneering ) is a particular event ( Hyderabad municipal corporation elections) . While the author has thrown around phrases like ‘since time immemorial’ to make the article seem more general less motivated, these phrases have failed in doing their job well.

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  • 29 November 2020 at 4:53 pm
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    The article shows the true picture of Indian Democracy without any party bias as well. Indira belonged to Congress. Modi belongs to BJP. Such practices are surely a threat to India’s efforts to decentralise power in India. Yes, this culture of local body polls being dominated by national leaders is not a good symptom for parliamentary democracy aiming for decentralisation. Well-written! A debate should start about it.

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  • 29 November 2020 at 4:54 pm
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    A real issue which needs to be addressed at the national level by the Election Commission of India and the Supreme Court of India

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  • 29 November 2020 at 5:29 pm
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    1. The article is factually incorrect. The state election commissions don’t conduct the elections to the state legislative assemblies.

    2. Was electoral politics ever a “level playing field”? Today with political parties hiring organizations to manage elections, it is very naive to talk about such phrases.

    3. Who has ever set up any list talking about what is “essential” in politics and what is not? Moreover, something not being essential doesn’t bar any party from using it. Moreover, politics was never about morality. To think of indian electoral politics in such terms is a naivety.

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  • 30 November 2020 at 5:44 am
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    Rightly pointed. Democrats in power should be above party line.

    Reply
  • 1 December 2020 at 3:33 pm
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    Who will bell the cat???

    Reply
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