Democracy Ends The Day We Cast Our Votes?
"An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud
bath for every soul concerned in it." - George Bernard Shaw
Electoral reform means introducing fair electoral systems for conducting fair
elections. It also includes recuperation of the existing systems to enhance and
increase the efficiency of the same.
One of the most important features of our democratic structure is elections
which are held at regular intervals. Free and fair elections are indispensable
for a healthy democracy. India has an indirect form of democracy which implies
that the government draws its authority from the "will of the people". It is the
citizens who have the sovereign power to elect the government and this
government is responsible to the people who have elected them. But there are
some shortcomings connected with this form of democracy which we have been
carrying since long. The citizens who elect the representatives have no right to
"recall or reject the representative" on the ground that they are unsatisfactory
for their post.
Six decades ago, India opted for a Parliamentary democracy at the time of
Independence. The term "Parliamentary democracy" implies that the sovereign
power to elect the representatives vests with the citizens.
But now the time has
come to chew over the points that were we correct in opting for this form of
democracy. We should not only blame the politicians alone but also we the
people of this country because we also are some where responsible for the same.
The first and the foremost task that is required to be done at this hour is the
removal of two dreadful things, that is, money power and muscle power. Besides
this, four C's have also to be wiped off.
This includes corruption,
criminalization, casteism and communalism. After being elected as a
representative of the government, politicians turn their deaf ear towards the
citizens with the help of whom they were able to climb up to their chambers. But
these are the topics still waiting in the queue to be taken into consideration.
No one feels like giving their ear to it.
We have a Parliament that does not discuss those issues which requires serious
attention and debate. Just because we have elections every year, it does not
mean that we have an effective democratic structure. We can compare this with
other countries which attained freedom from colonial rule at the time when India
achieved its Independence.
The condition differs. It's true that we have
inaugurated a good democratic structure as compared to other developing nations
but the recent observations shows that we are still lagging behind because of
the intervention of criminalization in politics. Indian political system is
deteriorating day by day due to various reasons like misuse of offices, money
power, corrupt officials, etc. Politics is like a game. If you play well, you
will keep on ascending and one day you will be certified as the Master of
People today, consider this arena to be a dirty one and they usually
don't prefer intruding in the same. They regard it as a scoundrel's field. There
was a time when socially, a corrupt person was not regarded as a desirable man.
But today, we have reached such a stage that corruption is not only taken for
granted but people with money are most respected by society. The fault lies in
the political and electoral system that has derailed the social, economic, and
administrative fabric of the country.
Electoral Reforms In India
Elections form the mainstay of our Indian Democracy. Our democratic setup
bestows on us the right to elect the representatives of the state. Besides, the
elected people have the right to choose the Head of the State. The elections in
India have a long history. India has both General and State elections as
promoted by our federal structure. The Election Commission of India is the apex
body that conducts elections in India. Both the General and State Elections are
held as per the rules prescribed by the Election Commission.
This Commission is
composed of high-ranking government officials and is constituted according to
the provisions of the Indian Constitution. A great degree of autonomous power is
bestowed on the Election Commission to exercise control over the election
process. Even the judiciary has no right to intervene while the electoral
process is on.
Some of the Electoral reforms that have occupied the Election Process includes
EVMs that is, Electronic Voting Machine which results in more transparency and
creditability of elections, Universal Adult Franchise initiated by the
61st Amendment, 1988 which has reduced the age of voters from 21 years to 18
years and Anti- Defection Law which curtails the criminals from taking tickets
of various political parties and also bestows on them the right to extract the
contesting candidates' profile. Besides, Section 58A has been inserted in the
Representative of the People's Act by Act 1 of 1989 providing for an adjournment
of pole or revoking of elections because of booth capturing.
Elections In India
Elections in India are held for the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and the State
Legislative Assemblies that is Vidhan Sabha, the Legislative Council is known as
Vidhan Parishad and for the President and the Vice- President too. Besides,
elections are also held for the local bodies like the Municipalities, the
Municipal corporations, and the Panchayati Raj Institutions.
A large expanse of money is spent when these elections are held. The Chief
Election Commissioner, Shri. Sushil Chandra recently spoke about the challenges
of a corrupt electoral system. He says that elections have become the biggest
source of corruption because a huge expanse of money is spent in conducting such
elections and this is beyond the prescribed limit. The candidates who win have
the propensity to take their money back and that too with interest.
This is how
corruption commences. He further adds that it has become a competitive
phenomenon in the system. If one party spends more money, then the other party
standing for election spends like a spendthrift. Whether it is money or
criminals, both are competitive. In his words, "If a criminal is put up by one
party then the other party feels very disadvantaged. They feel they have no
chance until a bigger dada is put up against them".
Free And Fair Elections
India is the largest democracy in the world. Since 1947, free and fair elections
are held at regular intervals as per the guidelines of the Constitution and the
Election Commission. The Constitution of India has vested in the Election
Commission of India the superintendence, direction, and control of the entire
process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State
and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India. Elections are
conducted as per the constitutional provisions and the laws made by Parliament.
The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, mainly deals with the
preparation and revision of electoral rolls with all aspects of the conduct of
elections and post-election disputes.
Criminalization In The Electoral System
Criminalization in politics has contributed towards a feeble electoral system.
The representatives who stand for elections are stuffed with various criminal
charges against them. It is a well-known perspective from a common man's eyes
that these politicians take the comfort of criminal elements to ascend the
ladder. This is really a matter of agonizing the citizens who go and vote for
them. If they give vote considering that it is their fundamental right, then are
these politicians cum criminals who are leading us creating a just atmosphere?
The answer will always be a decisive no. The Law Commission of India Reports
contains the biodata of the politicians, describing their social background,
charges against them, if any, etc. It is our fundamental right to know the
antecedents of every person to whom we give a vote. But very few make use of
such benefit. This is because of the lack of awareness among people. Section 8
of the People Representation Act, 1951 provides for disqualification of any
candidate on being convicted by a Court of Law.
It also includes that such a
candidate shall be barred from contesting any election further for six
additional years since the date of conviction. This shows a vital step to
controlling criminalization in politics. But the question is; is there a
hardhearted implementation on the same? Is it so that we have corrupt-free
officials? Also, do they feel the endurance of such tests meant for scrutinizing
their background? To all this, the answer remains "no".
The reason for this is
the use of money power in politics. One of the most important reasons for the
criminalization of politics is the nexus between politicians and bureaucracy.
Even factors like caste and religion are equally responsible for this. It is
seen in many states in India that a minister of a particular caste or religion
will be favorable towards the members of his own caste or religion.
system is equally responsible for this criminalization. Individuals and
political parties do astronomical expenditures for buying the votes and for
other illegitimate purposes. The politician's link with the constituency gives
rise to political crime. Corruption is also an important factor in the
criminalization of politics. The corrupted political member uses his powers for
winning the elections not in a fair manner.
The origin of the problem of the
criminalization of politics is mainly the country's poor governance capacity. On
one hand, excessive procedures are used by India to allow the bureaucracy to
insert into the ordinary life of people while on the other hand, it appears that
it is woefully understaffed to perform its most crucial function. A partisan
interfering in the investigation of crime and poor prosecution of cases. Massive
delays of cases of criminal candidates over the years and high cost that is
involved in the judicial proceedings. Unwarranted granting of parole and
abundance withdrawal of the court cases.
Criminalization in politics is not very new, there were and there are many of
the politicians charged with criminal and corruption records, which implies that
our democracy ends the day we cast our votes.
Issues And Challenges Before The Election Commission
There has been a universal appreciation of the Indian electoral system. People
have hailed the manner in which elections have been conducted in India. But
there are its weaknesses. It has been seen that in spite of the efforts of the
Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election, there are certain
shortcomings of our Electoral system and also there are some issues before the
election commission of India.
The role of unaccounted money in elections has become a serious problem. The
political parties collect funds from companies and business houses and then use
this money to influence the voter to vote in their favor. The business
contributions are mostly in cash and are not unaccounted. Many other corrupt
practices are also adopted during elections such as bribing, rigging, or voters
intimidation, impersonation, and providing transport and conveyance of voters to
and fro the polling stations. The reports of liquor being distributed in poor
areas are frequent during an election. These are some illegal practices
performed by the candidates during elections on the basis of their money power.
The dominant role of money in elections, which is taking newer and outrageous
forms, is deeply worrying. Instances of politicians paying for news coverage and
bribing voters were widespread in 2009-2010 elections and even vote for note
scam is one of the biggest examples of money power. On seeing these instances,
politics seems to be the market of the barter system.
As result violence during elections has also increased. Though these activities
do not take place very openly but are still in progress, there are many small
towns where these activities take place before and even after the elections and
there is nobody to oppose it. Generally, the candidates are given tickets by the
political parties on the consideration of whether the candidate can muster the
support of numerically larger castes and communities and possesses enough
resources. Even the electorates vote on the caste and communal lines. Communal
loyalties of the voters are used at the time of propaganda campaigns.
This system of caste and religious voting showed up during various election
campaigns when the candidates used to give their speeches in favor of one
religion. All the political parties do not have equal opportunity in respect of
access to resources. The party in power is always in an advantageous position
over the opposition parties. There is the widespread allegation that the party
in power accomplishes misuse of the government machinery.
All these features
lead to violence, booth capturing, rigging bogus voting, forcible removal of
ballot papers, ballot boxes burning of vehicles, etc. which result in loss of
public faith in elections. The weaker and vulnerable sections among electors are
forcibly prohibited from voting or are made to vote against their free will.
Many of the ineligible voters find the place in electoral rolls like dead and
shifted voters and even sometimes many of the noncitizens also find the place in
electoral rolls. Even we found repetitions and duplications on electoral rolls.
There are sometimes mistake in spelling the names of electors, the names of
their Father/Mother/Husband (as the case may be), date of birth, address, etc.
Mistakes in the spelling of names, recording of date of birth/age and the
correct recording of addresses have been some of the major irritants as far as
the electors are concerned.
Because of the hitherto used old techniques of
writing the name of the elector in one language and then transliterating it into
another (English, Hindi or some regional language), problems have repeatedly
arisen incorrectly spelling the names of persons or their addresses. This has
dented the credibility of electoral rolls.
Another challenge associated with the management of electoral rolls in India is
matching the correct photograph with the elector's details of each and every
elector whose name finds a place in the roll. Here again, because of the
hitherto used old technique of keeping the electors' details and their
photographs separately, mismatch in photographs used to be reported quite often.
There is no provision for making online applications by the candidate which also
reduces the transparency.
Citizens have no way to track the application or there
is no effective monitoring of tracking application, even most of the people or
citizens of India are unaware about their right to track application, they are
not aware of whether they can ask for tracking the application of the candidate
participating in an election.
The way our Legislature, the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and the State
Legislative Assemblies function, it does not make us feel proud. One of the
major problems with the Legislature is the number of unsatisfactory candidates
who find their way to the Legislatures. For example, it was reported by the
media that more than half of the MLAs to the present state assembly election in
Uttar Pradesh had noteworthy criminal records.
It is quite common to put almost
all the entire blame for the current state of affairs on the so-called political
class in the country. But those who blame them entirely overlook the fact that
this political class emerges from the society only. They are not developed in a
vacuum or in isolation. It's the citizens who do not make use of the benefit
furnished to them. Therefore, one way to change the behavior of the political
class would be to change the system in which they have to operate. This is where
electoral reforms become important.
The Government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need
fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much
greater cooperation across party lines, and changes to our political system to
make it far more transparent and accountable.
Be Bright, Vote For What Is Right!
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