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29 June 2011

Why India Need of Electoral Reforms?

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Faith in politicians has eroded in India India's democracy is facing serious challenges.[see
Political Reforms for Pakistan'.
Nearly a third of MPs - 158 of 543, to be precise - in the parliament face criminal charges. Seventy-four of them face serious charges such as murder and abduction. There are more than 500 criminal cases against these lawmakers. These MPs hail from across the political spectrum, writes Soutik Biswas
Twelve of the 205 MPs or 5% of the lawmakers in the ruling Congress Party face criminal charges. The main opposition BJP fares worse with 19 of 116 - or more than 16% - of its MPs facing charges. More than 60% of the MPs belonging to two key regional parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party - who profess to serve the poor and the untouchables - face criminal charges.
Then there are allegations of rampant vote-buying by parties, especially in southern India.
The Election Commission seized more than 600 million rupees ($13.3m; £8.3m) in cash in Tamil Nadu in the run-up to the state elections in April. It believes that the money was kept to buy votes.
In an US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks in March, an American official was quoted as saying that one Tamil Nadu party inserted cash and a voting slip instructing which party to vote for in the morning newspapers - more innovative than handing out money directly to voters. The party concerned denies the charge.
Independent election watchdogs believe that candidates routinely under-report or hide campaign expenses. During the 2009 general elections, nearly all of the 6753 candidates officially declared that they had spent between 45 to 55% of their expenses limit.
After the recent state elections - in three states and one union territory - elected legislators declared that that the average amount of money spent in their campaigns to be only between 39% and 59% of their limits in their official declarations. A total of 76 legislators declared that they did not spend any money on public meetings and processions.
There is something seriously amiss in the state of democracy in India. That is why, most believe, the country urgently needs electoral reforms.
Nearly a third of MPs face criminal charges. India's most respected election watchdog Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) has rolled out a pointed wish-list to clean up India's politics and target corruption. I am sharing some of them:
Any person against whom charges have been framed by a court of law or offences punishable for two years or more should not be allowed to contest elections. Candidates charged with serious crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and extortion should be banned from contesting elections. India's politicians have resisted this saying that opponents regularly file false cases against them.
To stop candidates and parties seeking votes on the basis of caste, religion and to stop divisive campaigns, a candidate should be declared a winner only if he or she gets more than 50% plus one vote. When no candidate gets the required number of votes, there should be a run-off between the top two candidates.
Voters should have the option of not voting for any of the candidates.
A law against use of excessive money in elections by candidates.
Despite the clamour for the state funding of elections, it is still not clear how much elections cost in India. Political parties do not come clean on their revenues and expenses, and until there is a clearer picture of how much they spend, it will be difficult to fix an amount. So political parties should give out verifiable accounts, which should be also available for public scrutiny.
The desire for electoral reform is not new. Since 1990, there have been at least seven hefty comprehensive government-commissioned reports for such reforms The Election Commission of India has been saying since 1998 that candidates with pending criminal cases against them should not be allowed to contest.If there is an overwhelming consensus about these reforms, why have governments sat on it for more than two decades? Ask the politicians.
Comments 
India and Pakistani political system are similar though democracy in  Pakistan has been repeated disrupted by military dictators. Both countries need to reform their political systems to make it more representative, transparent and democratic, please read '
Political Reforms needed for Stable Democracy in Pakistan...



[24 - comments]
1. Antony
Campaign finance reform is a must for India if it has step out of its third-world and corrupt image in the world arena. For each rally and each visit of a party official/functionary to a village, all expense report must be reported to the Election Commissioner. The list of donors and the amounts must be submitted in bi-weekly report. Criminal record (> 3 yrs) MPs cannot run elected offices.
2. Satheesan Kochicheril
The electoral reforms must be initiated by the elected representatives of the people. This will never be done by these people as they do not want to tie their own noose. This is where the Supreme Court can come to the salvation of the people. When people all over the World are demanding political changes for the better the people of India should not miss the opportunity to bring honesty in admini.

3. tkbhattacharyya
Indian democracy is laughable, the country is corrupt from top, election is corrupt, half the energy is lost in unseating any party in the provinces which do not support the centre ruling Congress the crown prince is waiting to be the prime minister. All the time vote buying quarrel dirty politics, poverty stricken land need no Governors President in palaces when half the Indians starving.

4. legend_speaks
yes we direly need some the one that tops the chart for me is direct election of PM at least that would eliminate the 'coalition compulsions'

5. Karthik Manamcheri
There is an option to vote "none of the above" according to Section 49 O in the Conduct of Election Rules 1961. However the button for that is not implemented in the voting machine (thanks to the government). I have read news reports of people casting a null vote by special request at the polling booth. As with everything in India, implementation of laws is a big problem.

6. Vishnz
If vote buying, of any kind, is banned it is most unlikely if either of the Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu would ever have got a foothold in the state politics. In addition, if any supporters of a candidate are convicted of threatening behaviour or worse in relation to the election, that candidate should be banned for life. It is harsh, but that has to be done to save democracy.

7. Vishnz
In addition my previous post, all caste, religion or ethnic based campaigning should be made illegal. Better still, ban any party that is set up on those bases. I remember Tamil Nadu in the early 70s when brahmins were terrorised on the streets by the dravidian thugs including their sacred thread being ripped off. people were and still are scared to use caste names of Iyer and Iyengar!

8. Ananya78
Soutik has hit the nail on the head. Why have the politicians been sitting on the proposed electoral reforms for years? Because they dont want good, clean people to come into politics. Politics in India has become a career for semi-literate, manipulative, corrupt people.

9. Dr D M Joshi
Has compulsory voting covered parliamentary elections? Of it I heard only in civic bodies elections in Gujarat. Since Independence some changes improvements have been noticed, particularly in the functioning of Election Commission. No reforms have taken place in Judiciary. In India it is a fact that a sharp legal mind with certain amount of moral scruples avoid being appointed as Judge.

10. Jay
The discussion on almost any issue, be it on corruption, Anna Hazare, education, research, urban-rural planning, quality of life- all end up towards the same direction and with the same conclusion. We can NOT improve on any issue (mentioned above) unless common citizens gather the courage and wisdom to oppose corruption and more importantly, implement the same reform in his/her personal life.

11. Jay
How can any sane person expect that our elected representatives will do something that will hurt them, personally? Almost no person join politics to serve the country or its people. Only backbenchers, criminal minded students joined and groomed (by all political parties) during student days.Schools and universities are now breeding grounds for such politicians.Teachers are no exception either.

12. Shilpy
the Hindu people have no stomach for politics. thus, although the indian people are great in their private and social lives, their state, ie India, for tens of centuries have moved from one foreign power to the other. the modern day Indian state too is wedded to the policy of "muslims have the first right to national resources". problems of their state will go away once Hindus organize politicly.

13. IndBrit
Dear Mr Biswas, Excellent article, thank you. Do keep us posted about what's really going on in India, because parts of Indian media, when they are not very shallow, can be very shy. Since they must have good and conscientious journalists, one wonders whether there is a free press!

14. vkappu
It is one of the practical suggetion made mr southik that a candidate should bedeclared elected,only if he got 50% plus vote from a constituency one contested to ward off the religious,cast influence in politics. It is doubtful whether formal democracy is suitable to Indian conditions such as huge population multi religions,cast and poverty stricken masses who are prey of wel -to-do maliklog

15. Vivek Misra
Indian democracy is a myth; it is a corrupt play of power that is called an 'election' every 5 years. Nothing will change as people only think about themselves/their community all the time and not about the country.

16. Jay
Politics should be banned from any school, college and university. Political affiliation of both teachers, students' union is dangerous not only for the institution but also for grooming future generation of career politicians. This is ONLY possible if teachers and  shool/ college/ university admin are held accountable- for education, administration & finance; which is far from reality now.

17. Jay
Mostly immature & worried (about career) students hardly have the ability to understand the bigger picture & long term consequences. It prevent a person/student with true leadership quality and wisdom to stay away from politics, both during his early days as student and later. Corrupt, dishonest teachers & administrators do the rest to kill the potential of any able (future) leader & politician.

18. IndBrit

Justice Kamleshwar Nath (a Retd Judge, Allahabad High Court) reveals another deeply worrying vignette on the state of Indian affairs:
Are Indian citizens being crushed with full parliamentary democratic and judicial sanctions?

19. Jay
Previously politicians used to use the criminals & businessmen to win elections. In return the criminals & businessmen used to enjoy immunity and get lucrative deals. Lately (around 1980s) those criminals & businessmen themselves started becoming politician, for obvious reasons. Bottom-up approach will never be a reality here, at least to start any meaningful reform.It have to be imposed from top.

20. Jay
That's why effective Lokpal bill, that includes PM, judiciary & MPs, is important.Whenever reform movements start with ideal goal, it always get derailed by opportunists, sometimes among its own ranks, sometimes implanted by govt. Lack of courage &/or opportunity force many of us to remain decently honest. But given a chance, they prove to be no less corrupt. Autocratic regimes begins that way.

21. peacebot
This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

22. munasabah
I love India much of the rich works of literature come from India. In this day and times I ask leaders to start to look within the Indian Philosophy and wisdom of the past.Leave not the ramayana and the mahabharata.Peace shall reign again.

23. IndBrit
Study of Philosophy & Religion is fine, but ...India is a secular state with millions of non-Hindus, and so she should remain! The problems under discussion face all Indians irrespective of religion, caste, wealth or gender. Any solution must have support of all the people - even including those who may have caused the problem. Social cohesion is crucial to build a better India.

24. IndBrit
Most readers would share your frustration. But, any change would come ONLY IF people try to change things. So I would urge you and everyone else who feels like you to direct your conscience / energy towards building a better India, however tortuous the path might be, or however long it takes, and NOT give up.

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