The urgent requirement for strong and substantial Electoral Reforms
India, the largest democracy in the world, is also one of the most applauded across the board. Ensuring the smooth conduct of a giant election consisting of innumerable political parties, ambitions, and political tangents amidst such a huge population, with little or minimum glitches is no mean feat, and deserves applause across the board.
Now that the people of this country have indicated their preference for a sovereign secular stable government involving as little turbulence as possible, yet leaving no room for complacency, it is time that we begin to see the change we have voted for. The hour is now ripe for the ‘controversial’ Chief Election Commissioner, Shri Naveen Chawla to redeem himself, bringing in some much needed and much-awaited electoral reforms.
Some of our suggestions, which we admit need to be extensively debated before a decision is taken keeping the welfare of India and Her People’s interests in mind are as follows:
Ø The people of India have chosen their representatives wisely; there is a reason behind the win or loss of every candidate. The Election Commission must respect that choice. Debar all those candidates who have lost the current elections from entering the sphere of political governance for the next five years (including any attempts for a back-door entry through the Rajya Sabha or through by-elections). This would keep away the pesky likes of A R Antulay, Bangarappa, Ram Vilas Paswan and others in their fraternity, who have been summarily rejected by the people as their representatives in parliament, thus keeping the framework clean at least for the next five years.
Ø Disallow candidates contesting from multiple constituencies in a single election.
- It is indeed fortunate (or are we being magnanimous in saying this) that the likes of Laloo Prasad and Chiranjeevi have been victorious in one constituency only out of the multiple constituencies that they contested from, thereby ensuring that by-elections, with their considerable expense of taxpayers’ money and sensibilities are now, though only luckily, unnecessary.
Ø Limit the number of parties that can contest elections nationally to only four in future elections.
The possibility of a hung parliament this time around, had given rise to immense speculation about possible ‘horse-trading’ that was to happen post elections. This proposal will remove such a possibility, leading not to a hotchpotch mix and match government bursting at the seams, but to a robust and truly elected government with clear leaders, in the form of men of calibre.
-It must be added at this stage that candidates should not be prohibited from contesting independently.
-While there is no issue with the formation of a number of parties at the regional level to help reform, they must all declare their allegiances to one of the four national parties pre-election. This would bring about a sense of direction to the voting population in the true national interest.
-A shocking statistic to be dealt with was as follows:
There were in all 332 parties, contesting at regional levels, which FAILED TO NOTCH UP EVEN A SINGLE CONSTITUENCY!!
Ø Just as there is a lower age limit for contesting elections, keeping the cycle of life in mind, there must also be a corresponding upper age limit for the same. It is time India got rid of senile and eccentric politicians like Arjun Singh and A R Antulay, though in the process we may also lose seasoned campaigners like Vajpayee, Advani or even a Karunanidhi.
Ø Individuals, who are refused a ticket to contest elections by their party, must not be allowed to immediately switch and contest from a different party (in the course of a single election). This shows true absence of resolve and lack of character. However, in keeping with the concerned citizens’ constitutional rights, they must definitely be given the opportunity to contest independently. This will help the Election Commission abstain from rewarding turncoats, and upholding the spirit of party loyalty.
Ø In this election, one of the strong points that emerged was that the distribution of vote-share and the seat-share was not proportional. While the people seem to have control over the vote-share, it is the seat-share that holds water unto the end. This introduces another level of abstraction for the people from the political process, thus clearly diffusing the control that the Constitution seeks to bestow upon them. It is warranted that a solution to this problem, possibly involving change in the demarcation of constituency limits, accounting substantially for population distribution, be undertaken at the earliest.
Ø Candidates having a known criminal record, having been convicted in a court of law or otherwise prior to the date of nomination/withdrawal of candidature must be disallowed. This proposal requires a great deal of processing in order to avoid potential misuse.
Also, candidates who are found to flout any law openly e.g. having multiple wives, must be disallowed from contesting the elections. (And don’t we know exactly who that rules out...).
Ø Candidates who are re-contesting after spending one tenure in public service must be asked to account for the difference in their asset levels between the two elections. If found incompatible with the expected earnings over a five year period, they must be given a stipulated period of time to justify the increase, failing which candidature must be disqualified. Maybe this will give politicians like Mayawati something to ponder about.
The Indian Parliamentary election is indeed a massive affair, and the Election Commission, along with all those others associated with the process deserve a big pat on the back for ensuring the smooth and successful conduct of the General Elections 2009. Nonetheless, we would definitely like to see some reform next time around, streamlining the process to one the world will indeed look up to. We have just made an attempt, through this humble letter, of highlighting the tip of the iceberg. We hope the people of India, and more importantly, the young politicians of emerging India take note, and push these, and potentially many more reforms through in good time, in an initiative to ‘Change India’.
P.S. One of the authors of this letter is a young working professional in his thirties, while the other is a student in one of the premier engineering institutions of the country. We believe we speak for the youth of this country. Dear Mr. Gandhi, do take note, as one of the iconic and mercurial leaders of the nation, that electoral reforms are essential sooner rather than later.