By Mamatha Govianu
Majority of the nations and their governments strive for the Development and welfare of its people. In a democratic setup such as ours It is our politicians- the representatives- the law makers, and the people who lay foundation for the development. And it is the Election Commission which is vested under Article 324 of Indian Constitution with the duty of conducting free and fair elections in the country. By this we could understand the importance of electoral system in our society, in our development!
Mere conducting of elections periodically doesn’t prove that we are republic and have an effective democracy. It is the way elections are held, the quality of people elected, their performances that make our democracy effective. In current scenario, the widespread disillusion in our political system is well visible. The poverty, unemployment, illiteracy levels indicate the inefficiency of our political system. Even after 60 years of our independence, our people suffer from lack of basic amenities in life. If a law is passed as to those with criminal and corruption charges are to be disqualified then around 93 MPs and 10 ministers in Man Mohan Singh’s ministry stand disqualified. This is appalling! We can’t put the entire blame for current state of affairs on our political system because it is not functioning in vacuum. The society has share in the blame. The behavior of our political system is its response to the society and to reform our political system, we need to reform society and its subsystems. This is where electoral reform becomes important.
Although there has been many changes made from time to time on our electoral system, yet there were no significant and substantial reforms brought about. The reports of Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990), Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998), Law Commission’s Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999), NCRWC (National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution) went in vain without implementation. It is high time, The Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 needs to be rewritten to bring the country under the able hands.
Let us go through some of the flaws found and the proposed reforms by the Election Commission of India and others.
·Candidates do not disclose all the cases of conviction and pending charges against them. They provide wrong and incomplete information regarding their assets, liabilities, and income and educational qualifications. People have the right to know whom they are voting for, is he genuine enough to be elected, can he be an effective, impersonal, visionary leader to lead them.
RPA should be amended to include all the items in affidavit and making falsedeclarations in connection with election to be an offence.
·The security deposit for candidates contesting for Lok Sabha is Rs.10000 and for State Assemblies, Council of States and Legislative Council is Rs.5000. Many non serious candidates file nomination only with an intention to disrupt the election process. This will bring unnecessary expenditure, stress, difficulty in maintenance of law and order, more ballot machines etc. As per recent amendment a candidate can contest from at most 2 constituencies. But in many cases candidate wins both, he selects any one and need arises for bye election leading to unnecessary expenditure.
EC proposes that candidate should contest from only one constituency and if not then such candidates should deposit Rs.500000 to Rs1000000 to bear bye election expenditure. The security deposit has to be increased to discourage non serious candidates.
·Criminalization of politics is the most critical flaw which is ruining all beauty of the system. A candidate becomes victorious by the muscle and money power rather than his works, conducts or ideals. They take the help of big business tycoons and criminals to win. In return they bias their power towards these anti- social elements which adversely affect our society. Now the criminals themselves are entering politics. The Law Breakers are the Law Makers! The long delay in our judicial system, increased corruption in public life, the first- past- the- post system in which 25% to 28% of valid votes assure victory in practice, prevalence of illiteracy and poverty are encouraging the criminal elements.
The person who is accused of serious criminal offences and where the court is prima facie satisfied about his involvement should be kept away from electoral arena. Transparency in public life improves transparency in elections. So, contesting candidate must disclose his assets, liabilities, convicted and pending cases against him. Introducing two ballot system and negative vote system would discourage criminal elements from being elected.
·Maintenance and auditing of accounts by political parties is not fully transparent. The Election expenditure incurred by political parties, friends and supporters of the candidate will not be counted as election expenditure of the candidate as per sub section 1 of section 77 of RPA. This section in the opinion of the SC has removed even the “fig leaf to hide the reality” of the impact of black money on the outcome of elections. In some instances, the Government functionaries resign and jump into active politics and gain votes based on their service as public servants. A good civil servant may not be guaranteed to be a good politician. They have just implemented the service rendered by the Government to the people.
Sub section 1 of section 77 of RPA must immediately be removed. Rules must be made to keep the officials out of active politics at least for five years of their retirement. No party must give ticket to a person unless he has served under the party for at least two years. This will check horse trading and prevent politics from becoming a business for the few.
·Exit polls and opinion polls will have impact on election results mainly when elections are held in phases. Govt sponsored advertisements where expenditure is incurred from public exchequer in favor of ruling party will be unfair. When the elections near, the ruling party announcing remissions to certain class to impress voters at the cost of tax payers money, dissatisfies the other class creating law and order problem. Political advertisements lead to lots of confusion. Here parties blame each other for failures, glorify the perfect world they are going to give us after coming to power.
Suitable restrictions must be imposed on publication of opinion polls. Advertisements of achievements of Government in any manner must be prohibited for six months prior to elections or from date of dissolution of the House. Suitable monitoring mechanism must be provided by the Government by amending Cable Television Network (Regulation) Rules, 1994.
·Bureaucratization of politics is also seen in the current arena. The parties can manage to get the officers in their favor to be the electoral officers in their constituencies. Sufficient measures have been taken by the Constitution itself to make the Election Commission an independent body. But still it is dependent on the Union in financial matters.
So six months prior to the elections, no transfer shall be made without the concurrence of the Commission. The expenses of the Election Commission should be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India to secure its independent functioning.
·It seem to be easy for any group of persons to be registered as political party leading to mushrooming of non- serious parties (currently around 650 out of which only 150 or so have contested in elections) creating unnecessary load in election management. Some of the parties which have become defunct still remain as functional political parties in Commission’s rolls.
Commission recommends providing provisions to de-register a party and also authorize commission to regulate the registration and de-registration of political parties.
·As we all know barrels of black money flow during elections, parochial tendencies playing their role pressuring public, purchasing them, and creating impressions in their mind. Dinesh Goswami Committee had suggested of providing State funding to parties for election expenses partially. But I don’t think this will in any way stop black money flow. During elections, we hear lots of common complaints from the public that their name is missing from the voters list. Thousands of officials deputed on election duties also are unable to cast votes. This murders the very purpose of electing the majority voice.
No State funding must be allowed. Commission must take necessary steps to see that not even a valid voter’s name is missed. The voter’s list must also be periodically amended. Postal balloting must be made a compulsory duty for officials under election duty.
This list is not exhaustive.
One of our able Chief Election Commissioner T. N. Sheshan has rightly said that in spite of making lots of rules; it is not possible to make the Electoral system fool proof. Bringing Electoral reforms is not an easy task. It is the citizens and civil society which have to work vigorously towards this along with the Government. Only those which have been accepted by the society can survive. And perhaps society has accepted corruption, inequality, harassment on the weaker section, dictatorship of the bourgeois because no strong voice has been raised against them from all corners and all classes of society. People must be well educated to understand all the faces of politics and select the best amongst the worst. Reform is needed not only for the Electoral system but for the society as a whole. Let’s do what we can. Educate the innocent. Don’t encourage anti- social elements. Don’t be a silent spectator to the crimes. Discourage favoring, corruption, parochial tendencies like voting for caste, region, language etc. Recognize the true leaders. Demand transparency. Exercise your right to vote. Vote for values, talents and visions. Freedom we are enjoying is the fruit of the Indian freedom struggle tree to which millions of freedom fighters have poured their blood for it to grow and yield the fruit. Get started before it’s too late and out of our hands……………….
Ref: Proposed electoral reforms by ECI