ELECTORAL REFORMS- CHALLENGES AHEAD.
Prof. Joseph K. Alexander
India is the largest functioning democracy holding regular elections for the Parliament, Rajya Sabha, State Assemblies and local self government bodies. World is amazed by these systematic, regular and peaceful periodical elections. Despite, Election Commission is faced by certain challenging issues in the conduct of these elections. It is worried as to how to make the elections fairer and free, so that even the most marginalized in the society can cast his vote without fear and as his right. Of the many, I attempt to cite three issues.
1. Unfair role of unaccounted money.
With the phenomenal rise in the number of the citizenry in each State the nations have moved from the direct democracy concept of the 6th century BC Athens and Sparta to elected representative parliamentary democracy of Britain and now India. In India a parliamentary candidate has to meet and woo over a million voters in his constituency spread over the length and breadth of it. He has to move quickly within the limited number of days from corner to corner meetings to address them, personally meet each voter to persuade him/her to vote for him, give his photo, pamphlets about his political promises and leave remember cards at their doors. This is a tall order requiring paid army (voluntary?) of workers, vehicles, printed material, and microphones and so on. Election campaigning is very expensive. So he has to raise by hook or crook money and receive it from businesspersons and corporates (for whom this is investment for out of priority benevolence from authorities thorough the MPs) to be spent as unaccounted amounts. Thus it is our would-be MPs and MlAs that originate corruption and create a parallel black money economy According to transparency International India is one of the most corrupted country with 124th rank among the 175 countries evaluated.
2. Criminalization of politics
With the unaccounted massive money power and muscle power “note for vote” bribing, rigging, intimidation of voters, impersonation, providing conveyance, paid media coverage and even maintaining goonda squads to snatch ballot papers, ballot boxes, caste & religion based candidature and voting and creation of chaos and riots are rampant. Mistakes in the ballot paper used to be a trigger for trouble. Thanks for the electronic voting machine which solved many of such problems. What shall we do overcome this criminalization processes?
3 Criminal MPs and MLAs.
Many of the sitting elected representatives have criminal background and pending cases in the courts. How to purge them from the Parliament and State Assemblies? Vorha Committee reported in 1993 the nexus between criminal gangs, police, bureaucracy and politicians. In 2009 Association for democratic reforms reported 15 % of the candidates in the general election are criminals with pending cases in the courts... This is true of all political parties big and small.
A, Can we prevent them from contesting the elections? How?
B, What about the sitting criminals of the elected bodies? How to purge them?
C. How to prevent selection of candidates based on caste and religion?
May we get some insights on these issues?
Free and fair election and responsible political parties accountable to the electorate is imperative for a healthy democracy. Politicians should honestly work above caste, creed, religion or gender considerations. Fir this, perhaps over and above the minimum age, some other qualifying benchmarks like academic skills, lack of criminal background may be insisted to contest the elections