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Tag Election Reforms

MP – ‘M’ for Murder, ‘P’ for Politics 0


Note: This is the concluding part of the three part series on Next Generation Electoral Reforms (other two –   Intership for MPs & MLAs , Inner Party Democracy) .

Indian Electoral System today is at a point of inflection. What started in early ’90s as a  lone struggle by a maverick (T. N. Seshan) to cleanse the cesspool of Indian Elections, has now transformed into a well oiled election machinery that has won acclaims for the  successful conduct of several difficult electoral battles. Indian Elections are unique because of the number of people that vote, the varied geography it covers as well as the specter of violence that hangs around them. The real game changer has been the speedy roll out of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). From trial runs to all EVM Elections, they have even caught the fancy of the world community.  The somewhat checkered implementation of the Voter ID Cards, and the mandatory affidavits by candidates have  also contributed to the credibility of Indian Elections.  But where do we go from here?

To be sure, there are still problems galore. There is the problem of increased Naxalite insurgency and the violence inflicted by them during elections. Beside that the role of money power too has come in for sharp focus. Around 300 present MPs are known to be Crorepatis, giving rise to the feeling that in near future, being a millionaire might become a pre-requisite for the job.  However the most serious problem of them all is the twin issue of increasing Criminalisation of Politics and the lack of good people joining politics.  Both these are essentially two sides of the same coin.

Criminals in Indian Politics

For our democracy to enter the next level of maturity, we need to usher in a new generation of Electoral Reforms. It is customary in the election season to run campaigns for increased voter turnout. There have been other ideas that have come to fore such as public funding of Elections, option to reject all candidates, provisions for recall of candidates etc. However many of these ideas can only take us thus far. Increased voter turnout will only have an impact if there is a wide choice of good candidates and detailed information about their performance is available. Even though public funding is being touted as a solution to the rising influence of money power, it may end up becoming up another channel for large scale waste of public money.

The problem of the criminalisation of politics needs to be tackled head on. We have for too long, dithered on the premise that any law to debar under trial criminals before they are finally convicted by the highest court, will open the door for falsely implicating innocent persons and will be against the laws of natural justice . However such arguments have become fallacious after more and more MPs & MLAs are being convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape & sedition. We need to bite the bullet now and make the law applicable to criminals convicted of serious crimes by any court of law. Once convicted they should not be allowed to contest even if their appeal is pending in a higher court, till the time their conviction is annulled by a competent court. Besides this ‘Fast Courts’ should be mandatory in case of MPs & MLAs being accused.

The problems facing our nation are serious and the rapid degeneration in the quality of our MPs and MLAs will reverse whatever progress we have made in the past decades. An intense debate on Next Generation Electoral Reforms is the need of the hour and the denizens of Social Media Network should take a lead in this direction. These discussions will hopefully throw up some ideas that will help shape a new dawn.

Inner Party Democracy 7


Note: This is the second part of the three part series on Next Generation Electoral Reforms (other two –   Intership for MPs & MLAs , MP – M for Muder, P for Politcs ) .

One look at the leadership of various political parties in India, will confirm that our democracy is only skin deep. While the leaders give customary lip service to democracy, their autocratic streak is all too evident in their dealings within their own political parties. Not only do they shamelessly promote their kith and kins, they run their parties as personal fiefdoms. They also prevent free voicing of opinions. Any contrarian voice against the ruling clique even at ‘Inner Party Fora’ leads to swift expulsion. Even though it is now established, that dissent is the true essence of democracy, no political party in India, without exception, provides any space for dissent. How can such a situation be conducive to the growth and prosperity of democratic values in our polity?

Not too long ago, Government formation at the Center was held hostage to the the equitable distribution of power within the progeny of Karunanidhi from his three marriages. Alas! he did not command the numerical strength to justify a cabinet birth for each of his sons/daughters/grand nephews, but he gave the Congress negotiators a tough time anyway. Indian Politics ImageThe recent clamour in Andhra Pradesh for anointing the political novice son of the late Chief Minister as the next CM, is symptomatic of the same problem. Indian political history is replete with instances of dynastic successions. Led by the redoubtable Nehru-Indira Gandhi-Rajeev-Sonia-Rahul, off late this virus has been contracted by practically every state  satrap be it Lalu-Rabri & Paswans in Bihar, Patnayaks in Orissa, Badals in Punjab, Abdullahs & Sayeeds in J&K, Pawars & Thakerays in Maharashtra, Goudas in Karnataka, Mulayam clan in U.P., Karunanidhi clan in TN etc. . The examples are endless on both sides of the divide. The oft repeated, specious argument that one should not object to politician’s son being a politician when there is no objection to a doctor’ son becoming doctor, engineer’s son being engineer etc., does not hold much water. The objections are not just based on the sons/daughters/nephews/wives joining politics but more importantly on the complete absence of any due process and the walkover awarded to these star politicians. It is almost akin to a business or a monarchical succession. Obviously it is at the cost of other more deserving leaders and it discourages those without such affiliations to enter politics.

Even otherwise, nomination of candidates for elections by Political parties is done without any tranparent due process. It is subject to the whims of the ruling clique. In some cases, sale of party tickets to the highest bidder has also come to light. It may seem like an internal matter of the respective political party, but it has an important bearing on the quality of choice (or lack of it) available to the electorate. Hence this process to needs to be brought under public scrutiny. We need to devise a model where party members duly elect their candidates for each constituency after following a due process.

Party system is an integral part of parliamentary democracy. It plays a crucial role in deciding not just the candidates but also the ‘party line’ on critical issues. This ‘party line’  is then enforced in the legislatures using the anti-defection bill, if required. Normally the political satrap’s whim becomes the will of the people. Hence political parties can not be left soley to the discretion of the  their leaders alone. They needs to be more tightly regulated by an outside agency. While the election commission mandates timely election of party functionaries, in most cases it is a mere formality. Active electioneering is discouraged and a consensus is concocted to keep the status quo going.

Inner party democracy will add more depth and meaning to our democracy. It will also have a direct impact on the kind of people joining politcs and a bearing on the choice available to the elecotorate.

Internship for MPs & MLAs 1


Note: This is the first part of the three part series on Next Generation Electoral Reforms (other two –   Inner Party Democracy , MP – M for Muder, P for Politcs ) .

Indian Elections are full of last minute entrants. First there are the ‘turncoats’ who switch sides right before elections owing to ‘political differences’, disillusionment, or simply the  realisation of being on the weaker side. Then there are the ‘rebels’, who on being denied ticket by their original party, either move to another party, float their own party or contest as independents. Next are the ‘proxies’ such as wives of criminals who replace their husbands if they are rendered ineligible to contest,  or wives of dacoits, underworld dons, politicians gone underground to evade arrest etc.. Also there are  the ‘overnight’  politicians like the wives, sons, relatives of powerful politicians or actors, sportsmen, public figures etc. who jump into the fray at the last minute to try their luck. None of them have any serious commitment to serve the electorate and are solely motivated by their personal gains.

Indian Politics interns

To avoid such last minute entrants, internship for MPs & MLAs should be made mandatory. This could be implemented in a simple manner by :-

a) Fixing the term of the Parliament/ Legislature.
b)  Mandating all political parties to notify their candidates a minimum one year in advance of the polls. Independents too must be required to register their candidature at least one year in advance.

The one year waiting period should be treated as internship. This will give the electorate ample chance to evaluate and observe a candidate before voting for him. Candidates should use the one year period to nurture their constituency and try to solve the problems of their electorate. Competitive pressure will ensure that the interns work hard at winning the confidence of their electorate. Ironically though, the interns may turn out to be better than the eventual winners.