Retrospective Electoral Reforms!
In early period of Indian democracy, election was very simple and no expensive. From time to time, election rules have been changing-- voter identity card to electronic voting machine (EVM) and now, even CCTV camera inside and at the gate of polling station and biometric application in near future after completion of unique identification code of voters. However, election malpractices do not change from past to present. And now, the debate is “Right to Reject and Rights to Recall” or “State Funding of Elections”.
Most of the political parties are prefer to state funding of election. State funding of elections would bring in an element of equality to electoral contests, particularly because it would help remove the disadvantage faced by parties which represent the socially and economically weaker sections and which often have limited access to big donors. If there is no fund, no election mobilization is possible for a candidate of small and weak political party. Shall India be rule by one or two big political parties forever or change into two party American systems? Big parties have already many seasonal politicians on line for party ticket--fresher have no chance. So, the alternatives are regional / local political party or independent candidate. Beside, good people do not turn out to contest election. The question is, why should I bankrupt myself, my family and my friend circle for election to serve for the people? If you are willing to serve people you can do at your best; you do not need to be an elected representative, power and money to serve people.
Political leaders will need power to achieve specific target, goals and objectives. For which, a set of agenda is required— what to do, people’s feeling, knowledge and skills mapping, behaviour and tricks of opponent candidates / party etc. However, good candidate will be defeated in the election because he would not like to practice wicked tricks to win election or he would be a bad leader after elected. Because, the quality of voters are still poor. This is reality……
People like Anna team and civil societies want “Rights to Reject and Right to Recall” candidates. The question is why I should choose you as my representative when your track records are all bad. When we do not find a single right candidate—we are choosing less hate candidate as our representative. ”Rights to Reject’ means voters would have the right to reject all the candidates in the fray if they find none to be suitable; my vote has given to none and it goes to the rejection of all candidates. If the numbers of rejection votes become majority, there shall be re-election or re poll. Second point is, once you are chosen as an elected representative- you can’t do at your own wills. Therefore- rights to recall means elected representative must be resigned when he does wrong against the wills of voters.
But, I feel there is something missing both in the discussion. It would be very rear to find a candidate 80% good either in a conflict state like Manipur or all India. So, how many times election will be re-poll after ‘rights to reject’ is implemented? Shall it weaken the power of elected representatives or government or parliamentary system? Or, shall “Rights to reject” system be effective? How many good candidates are possible to turn out after state funding of election? Even both have merits; election commission and government will have a lot of problem to implementation —may be election machinery problem or huge amount of public money for election funding.
What is the real problem in the existing electoral system? 1st problem is the violation of the election code of conducts to win power. 2nd problem is powers delegation for the EC to take appropriate action in time against those indulging in malpractices and; 3rd problem is, minority elected representative- unless candidates secure 51% of the total votes of the respective assembly constituency, they are minority representatives. Existing system of election is favouring them to work for their minority voters only. Now, we have witness how difficult is to fight an election. They are contesting election to live or death—do you believe that they would resign on social, economical and political issue of the state after they declared elected? How many violence are occurred in one election? Is it an election or violence or war? More violence is occurred because of more political mobilization. However, such kind of mobilisation does not practice in Lok Sabha election.
Why election commission does separate election for Lok Sabka and Vidhan Sabha? May be the reason for different period of term of State Assembly and Parliament or lack of machinery for election or political stagnation—we have witnesses many mid term election. Second reason, state assembly has completed its term and parliament is 2 years remaining to complete its term. Third reason, how much security strength do government need and how much government can arrange security for election--- because election violence is everywhere. More security arrangement is required in the hyper sensitive and sensitive areas.
Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi’ is opinion on the suggestion for State funding of elections, saying “this will only add to the problem and not curb the use of money power in elections. However, SY Quraishi’s sought more powers for the EC to deregister parties indulging in malpractices and to fix the limit for money to be spent in elections. Electronic media have made a lengthy discussion for the past 6-8 months on corruption and electoral reforms—focusing on election expenditure and its effect on political corruption. Now, media has to focus on another topic of election funding to turn out good politician.
What would be wrong to election commission when elected members scoring less then 51% of the total votes do trust vote again? Those elected members getting less then 51% shall not be entitle to get allowance and facilities unless they could pass the trust vote for more then 51% within one year. So that, they could serve for general people ignoring their past rivals and enemies or conduct a preliminary round of election and select only 2 or 3 for the final round. This preliminary round can be done by simple survey or opinion poll or management and attitude test of the candidate.
Electoral Reforms in India
The Union Cabinet approved in principle the law ministry's proposal for state funding of elections on December 2005. A Bill recommending state funding of elections has been referred to the Election Commission of India (ECI) for its opinion. As per the proposal, candidates from recognised political parties will receive state funding. The Election Commission will be consulting different political parties on the issue before taking a final decision.
In a significant step towards state funding of Parliamentary and assembly elections, the Law Ministry has been asked to formulate "concrete proposals" in this regard despite Election Commission's reservations. A Group of Ministers to tackle corruption, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has asked the Law Ministry to formulate "concrete proposals on Constitutional and statutory amendments which are required for introducing reforms relating to state funding of elections," say by a statement issued by the Ministry of Personnel on 16 October, 2011.
In an effort to rationalise ceiling of expenses in elections, government had earlier this year enhanced the poll expenditure of candidates to Rs 40 lakh for parliamentary constituencies and Rs 16 lakh for assembly seats. The maximum limit for parliamentary constituencies was Rs 25 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for assembly seats. However, Union Law ministry issued a notification amending the Conduct of Election Rules regarding the election expenditure of various states. The notification says the upper limit of election expenditure for assembly seats in the state of Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim would be Rs 8 lakh.
On 56th meeting of the National Development Council, (NDC), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has called for state funding of elections. It is the need of the hour to curb corruption caused by fund collections and related processes for elections. He also called for simultaneous elections of Lok Sabha and State Assemblies once in five years while doing away with frequent elections and by-polls.However, the former Chief Election Commissioner, James M. Lyngdoh, has said state-funding of elections is a “useless thing,” and that switching over to proportionate representation of the electoral system will help curb the influence of money in the long-term.
In June 1998, a multi-party parliamentary committee under the chairmanship of Indrajit Gupta of the Communist Party of India (CPI) was constituted to look into the question of state funding of elections. The other members of the committee were Somnath Chatterjee of the Communist Party of India(Marxist), Manmohan Singh of the Congress(I), Madhukar Sarpotdar of the Shiv Sena, Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP, Sedapatti R. Muthiah of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Digvijay Singh of the Samata Party.
After holding extensive discussions with political parties across the country, the committee prepared its report and submitted it to the Union Home and Law Ministries recently. It has recommended far-reaching measures to reform a key aspect of the electoral process; funding of political parties and candidates. The committee has made out a strong case for state funding of elections because political parties performed a vital public function to sustain democracy. However, it has recommended that such funding should be confined to parties recognised as national parties or State parties by the Election Commission and to candidates fielded by such parties.
According to the committee, the aim should be to discourage political parties from seeking any external funding (except a nominal membership fee) to run their affairs, carry out political programmes and conduct election campaigns. The committee has laid emphasis on the need for greater insulation between political parties and private contributors of funds. As election campaigns required huge amounts of money and the costs of routine political activity between elections are also substantial, political parties have become overly dependent on private contributions, often acquired through questionable means and usually on the basis of a quid pro quo. Business houses and entrepreneurs contribute funds to political parties and seek to influence government decisions through them.
The committee has said that state funding of elections would bring in an element of equality to electoral contests, particularly because it would help remove the disadvantage faced by parties which represent the socially and economically weaker sections and which often have limited access to big donors.
There was criticism that state subsidies paid in the form of cash could be misappropriated. The committee, therefore, has recommended that subsidies be extended to recognised political parties and their candidates in the form of facilities. Thus every recognised national party may be allotted rent-free accommodation for its headquarters in New Delhi and every recognised State party may be provided the same facility in the respective state capitals. It has also recommended that the State provide one rent-free telephone with subscriber trunk dialing facility at the premises. A higher quota of free calls than what is available normally to telephone subscribers has also been recommended.
The committee has endorsed the efforts of the Election Commission (E.C.) to allocate sufficient time free of cost on Doordarshan and All India Radio to recognised political parties for election broadcast, and suggested that the facility be extended to private television channels in order to ensure fair and balanced coverage.
There is general agreement that the state should provide every candidate of the recognised parties a specified quantity of petrol or diesel to run vehicles during an election campaign, a specified quantity of paper to prepare election literature and voter identity slips, postal stamps for a specified sum of money, five copies of the electoral roll in a constituency, and an amplifier system for every Assembly constituency or for every Assembly segment of a Lok Sabha constituency, subject to a maximum of six such sets for a Lok Sabha constituency.
According to the recommendations, during election campaigns the state should provide a deposit-free telephone with a specified quota of free calls for the candidate's main campaign office in every Assembly constituency or segment (subject to a maximum of six telephones in a Lok Sabha constituency), basic facilities for the candidate's camps outside each polling station on election day, and food for the candidate's counting agents inside the counting hall on counting day.
In order to curb the election expenses of parties and candidates, the committee has called for reasonable restrictions on wall writings, the display of cutouts, hoardings, banners and posters, the number of vehicles used for election campaigns, and the time and venue of public meetings.
The committee has recommended the creation of a separate Election Fund with an annual contribution of Rs.600 crores (at the rate of Rs.10 a voter, for the total electorate of about 60 crores) by the Centre and a matching amount contributed by all State governments together.
The committee has suggested that in order to be eligible for state funding, political parties and their candidates should have submitted their income tax returns up to the previous assessment year and that political party should accept all donations above Rs.10, 000 in the form of cheques or drafts and disclose the names of the donors.
The committee has said that the Government and Parliament should decide whether there should be any ban on donations by companies and corporate bodies for political purposes, as there was disagreement among the members. While Indrajit Gupta, Somnath Chatterjee and Sedapatti Muthiah recommended such a ban, others opposed it. The committee could not reach a consensus on whether the election expenses of political parties and other associations and individuals should be included in the accounts of election expenses of candidates.
Electoral Reforms - prepared by the Core- Committee on Electoral Reforms 2010.
In order to take the agenda forward, the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, has constituted a Committee on Electoral Reforms. The main purpose of the Committee is to recommend to the government concrete ways in which our electoral system can be strengthened. The Committee will take into account the opinions of political leaders, Government servants, legal experts, NGOs, scholars, academics, journalists, and other stakeholders.
This Committee seeks to hold regional consultations followed by a national consultation in order to develop a set of actionable recommendations. Every effort would be made by this Committee to reach out to a wide set of experts and stakeholders and to benefit from the insights and experience of all concerned. The objective of these recommendations would be to provide the basis of developing legislative and other proposals which can then be taken forward.
The topic of electoral reforms has been taken up by numerous government committees in the recent past, including but not limited to:
* Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms (1990)
* Vohra Committee Report (1993)
* Indrajit Gupta Committee on State Funding of Elections (1998)
* Law Commission Report on Reform of the Electoral Laws (1999)
* National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
* Election Commission of India – Proposed Electoral Reforms (2004)
* The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)
The criminalisation of our political system has been observed almost unanimously by all recent committees on politics and electoral reform. Two measures recommended by previous committees like Vohra Committee Report on Criminalisation of Politics and the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution are discussed; enforcement of the disclosure of criminal antecedents of candidates, and eligibility restrictions for candidates with criminal cases pending against them. In addition to this, pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court the Election Commission on March 27, 2003, has issued an order that candidates must file an additional affidavit stating (i) information relating to all pending cases in which cognizance has been taken by a Court, (ii) assets and liabilities, and (iii) educational qualifications.
Election Expenditure: In an attempt to deal with the use of black money in elections, the maximum poll expenditure for parliamentary constituencies has been increased to Rs 40 lakh and to Rs 16 lakh for assembly constituencies. Expenditure limit varies according to the size of states. Law ministry issued a notification amending the Conduct of Election Rules on February 2011. At present, in big states, the upper spending limit in parliamentary constituency is Rs 25 lakh and Rs 10 lakh in assembly constituency.
Electoral candidates in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand would be able to spend Rs 40 lakh per constituency in parliamentary election and Rs 16 lakh in assembly election.
In case of Nagaland, Tripura, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, while the upper limit for expenditure in parliamentary election is Rs 40 lakh, for assembly election there is a variation. In HP and Uttarakhand, a candidate can spend only Rs 11 lakh for assembly constituency while in case of Nagaland and Tripura, it is Rs 8 lakh.
In Jammu & Kashmir, because of its special status, election expenditure for parliamentary election is Rs 40 lakh while for assembly election the maximum limit has been left to the state election commission. In Goa, the upper limit for expenditure in parliamentary constituency is Rs 22 lakh and Rs 8 lakh for assembly constituency.
North-eastern states also have varying structure of election expenditure. In Arunachal Pradesh, the upper limit for parliamentary constituency is Rs 27 lakh and Rs 10 lakh for assembly constituency. In Manipur and Meghalaya, the maximum limit for parliamentary constituency is Rs 35 lakh and Rs 8 lakh for assembly constituency.
In Mizoram, while the upper limit for assembly constituency is Rs 8 lakh, for parliamentary constituency, it is Rs 32 lakh. In Sikkim, the expenditure limit for parliamentary constituency is further less at Rs 27 lakh while for assembly it is Rs 8 lakh.
In case of Union Territories, there is a big variation again. In Delhi, maximum expenditure for parliamentary constituency is Rs 40 lakh, for assembly election it is Rs 14 lakh. In Puducherry, upper limit for parliamentary constituency is Rs 32 lakh and for assembly Rs 8 lakh.
In UTs without assemblies — Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu — expenditure for parliamentary constituency is Rs 16 lakh. In Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Chandigarh — also without assembly — it is Rs 27 lakh and Rs 22 lakh respectively.
IMPHAL | Oct 15 “The state of Manipur is for all and the ancestral land belongs to no particular community; the misunderstanding between the communities and state government that may affect people’s sentiments will also be solved soon.” Chief secret.....
PLHIVs feel ignored by MACS, govt By Donald Sairem IMPHAL | Oct 15 Even though Manipur is among the states with highest HIV/AIDS prevalence, the state is yet again facing acute shortage of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to be provided to People Liv.....
IMPHAL | Oct 15 The United Naga Council (UNC) appealed to the Kuki ‘brethren’ to restrain from making provocative statement and activities in commemorating the centenary of the ‘Anglo-Kuki War 1917-19’ which is to be organised by Kuki Inpi Manipur. .....
IMPHAL| Oct 15 The 12-hour general strike imposed today by Coordination Committee (CorCom) and Alliance for Socialist Unity - Kangleipak (ASUK) severely affected normal life in Manipur valley with all activities coming to a standstill. The total sh.....
By Lelen Vaiphei IMPHAL | Oct 15 Bandhs and strikes in the state paralyse daily activities of the state. Every individual ceases their daily work in support of the bandh or either to avoid any untoward incidents, but it is a common scene to witness .....