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Sansad TV: National Voters Day

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Election Commission of India:

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • The Election Commission operates under the authority of Constitution per Article 324, and subsequently enacted Representation of the People Act.

Recent Electoral Reforms:

The steady increasing electoral participation points out to the positive interventions made by Election Commission of India to secure the same.Free and fair elections attract more voters. The measures taken by ECI to attract voters include:

  • Employing “Awareness Observer” across the country in order to compile a report on voting numbers and reasons behind low or high participation in each constituency so that ECI can work upon the hurdles.
  • Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)
  • Introducing Short Message Service and Toll Free Numbers so that people can ask details regarding enrolment process and address of polling station
  • None of the Above:
    • The Supreme Court, in September 2013, upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country.
    • Thus, India became the 14th country to institute negative voting. However, NOTA in India does not provide for a ‘right to reject’. The candidate with the maximum votes wins the election irrespective of the number of NOTA votes polled.
  • Live Monitoring of Sensitive Areas to ensure that no mischievous activities are carried at the polling station
  • Systematic Voters Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)
    • SVEEP is a programme of multi interventions through different modes and media designed to educate citizens, electors and voters about the electoral process in order to increase their awareness and participation in the electoral processes.
    • In addition to target groups of women, youth, urban voters and the marginalized sections, the inclusion of groups like service voters, NRIs, persons with disabilities, prospective voters/ students is of primary focus.
  • Replacing ballot papers through electronic voting machine to make the voting process easier.
  • Electoral Bonds:
    • Cash donations have been replaced by banking transactions.
    • Electoral bonds have made the whole transaction secretive and opaque.
  • Organizing National Voters’ Day, Voter Fest and employing school children and renowned personalities as ambassadors to persuade people to cast their votes.

Challenges:

  • Money power:
    • The increasing role of money power in the form of voter bribery and funding of political parties
  • Paid news:
    • The manipulation of the media through paid news and other means.
  • Criminalization of politics :
    • Over the last two decades, the influence of criminals in the political arena has shown a tremendous increase.
    • According to Vohra report the nexus between the criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians has come out clearly in various parts of the country.
    • Political parties continue to put up criminals as candidates.
  • Misuse of caste and religion for electoral gains :
    • The use of religion, caste, community, tribe, and any other form of group identity for electoral gain or for gathering political support should not be allowed.
  • Issue of electoral bonds :
    • Analysts said the move could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.
  • Black money :
    • Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.
  • With electoral bonds there can be a legal channel for companies to round-trip their tax haven cash to a political party.
  • These bonds share two characteristics with tax havenssecrecy and anonymity.
  • Electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations which means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations.
  • Hate speech by politicians
  • EVM tampering issue and the case for VVPATs
  • Financial transparency in political parties:
    • This is also one of the fundamental deeper political reforms that is a necessary precondition that must be satisfied before any meaningful electoral reforms can actually take place on the ground
  • Ensuring the independence of the ECI:
    • Independence of the ECI, the manner of appointment of the CEC and ECs was debated.
    • One member proposed ratification of CEC’s appointment by the Legislature, but the Constituent Assembly disagreed and it simply provided for the CEC to be appointed by the President, leaving it to the Legislature to enact a suitable law.

Way Forward:

  • The political class as well as the election commission should come together to find ways to decrimilize the elections.
  • Entry of criminals in politics should be taken in more serious manner.
  • Electoral reforms should be taken to take care of mushrooming in coalition politics.
  • Alternative kind of methods such as proportional representations should be looked after.
  • Facilitate internal migrants to vote which compromise 25-30% of the population.
  • Proxy voting for NRI’s should be looked upon.
  • Consenses among all stakeholders concerned.