New Delhi, Aug 18: Election Commissioner OP Rawat on Thursday spoke out against the ‘creeping new normal of political morality’ in India saying that political parties try to win at all cost, with no ethical considerations. In an address delivered at the ‘Consultation on Electoral and Political Reforms’ organised by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), Rawat said, “Democracy thrives when elections are free, fair and transparent. However, it appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places (the) maximum premium on winning at all costs — to the exclusion of ethical considerations.”

Speaking about the narrative, OP Rawat said, “In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management; strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation etc. are all commended as resourcefulness.”

In the meeting, Rawat also spoke against the practice of paid news. He said that paid news should be made an electoral offence punishable by two years of imprisonment.

He further added: “The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt is also possible criminality. It is this creeping ‘new normal’ of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic policy for better election, a better tomorrow.”

The remarks from the Election Commission came a few days after Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections, in which the EC used its special powers, rejecting votes cast by two rebel Congress MLAs. The votes cast by the two were rejected after Congress party leader Shaktisinh Gohil alleged that Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel showed their ballots to BJP party president Amit Shah, who was one of the candidates in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha polls. The poll panel concluded that the two leaders had violated secrecy norm.