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A BACKGROUND PAPER
M. Vijaya Kumar
All India Progressive Forum (AIPF)
The electoral system in any country should support and strengthen the empowerment of the people of the country to exercise the system to guarantee an equitable framework of economic and social justice.
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ALL INDIA PROGRESSIVE FORUM (AIPF) provides a platform for debates by progressive intellectuals in India on issues of national concern. It is built by a group of intellectuals committed to promote development, and welfare of the people of India by offering a platform for free and open debate on social, political, economic or cultural issues of national concern. The political space of the Forum is inclusive of patriotism, justice, solidarity with people of all nations, and human rights. It also acts as a channel for dissemination of ideas and information which could be used as tools for change by a wide section of the people, politicians to grass-root activists, bureaucrats or policy makers. The architects of the Forum believe that from a free, democratic and transparent discussion will emerge directions for building a new India, where science and technology are built upon through a right balance of traditional culture and modern values to nurture a new society for human development and peace. AIPF is in the process of building up public platforms for discussions on some of the crucial issues which affect the lives of people in India. Stakeholders and professionals are brought on to the same platform with the objective of preparing policy documents on topics of national concern. The present pamphlet on electoral reform is one such discussion document. The content has been discussed by the (adhoc) National Executive Committee (NEC) of the AIPF. The original draft was prepared by M. Vijaya Kumar, Vice President of AIPF who incorporated comments and suggestions received from other members of the National Executive Committee. The present document on Electoral Reform is the outcome of a series of brainstorming sessions with a wide cross section of people including intellectuals, lawyers, academicians and the public. Anil Rajimwale, Dr. Thara.K.G., Aswini Bakshi and Yugal Rayalu made major contributions towards preparing this pamphlet.
S.K.BISWAS President AIPF
For the Illustrations given in the pamplet we gratefully acknowledge the help of Mr. H.B. Gunaga. We also acknowledge the internet sources used for these illustrations; www.india-elections.com/cartoons/ www.sonyvellayani.com/2009/03/lok-sabha-elections-inindia-2009.html www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/3174260/content/32542864-funnycartoons-ofindia-elections-2009
1. Why an electoral reform? 2. Electoral System in India 3. Political Parties in India - Changing Face 4. Election Commission of India on Electoral Reform 5. A new electoral strategy • The rationale • AIPF recommendations for a reformed electoral system
Reference material – Electoral Reform • President K.R.Narayanan (1999) • V.K.Tarakunde Committee (1974-75) • Dinesh Goswami Committee (1990) • Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer Committee (1994) • Indrajit Gupta Committee (1998) • Law Commission Report (1998) • Justice Kuldeep Singh Panel (2002) • Suggestions by academics, scholars, lawyers and journalists. • Suggestions by Anna Hazare
M. Vijaya Kumar – He is an electrical engineer who has served as a senior manager in one of Indias largest public sector enterprises. He lives in Hyderabad and is a founder member of AIPF.
1. WHY AN ELECTORAL REFORM?
The structure and process of governance of the people in a nation chosen by the people of that nation. Governance is aimed to ensure the welfare of the People, in India the constitution was framed to ensure welfare by an equitable distribution of national wealth and resources. Political parties are indispensable in parliamentary democracy. There are 1,200 political parties in India and of these about 150 are active and functioning. Post-independence India has emerged as a sovereign state with a well developed strategic sector and a growth in basic infrastructure. However a small minority of the population has prospered hugely while the quality of lives of the majority has deteriorated. This is reflected in massive rural unemployment, lack of adequate health care and education, a sharp drop in the purchasing power of the people and a sharp growth in rural indebtedness. We need to ask some basic questions at this stage. (1) Is the mechanism of election an effective instrument of the democratic will of the people? (2) Do the measures, which fructify as outcomes of election, reflect the aspirations of those who are excluded from their due share of welfare? Gross corruptions in public life and criminalisation of politics haveled to distortions where the democratic credentials of the electoral system is being questioned seriously. There is therefore a widespread and increasing disenchantment with politics and politicians in India. There is a growing public awareness of the rampant entry of criminal elements into the political arena. For example, in the current Lok Sabha, nearly a quarter (23.2%)
of the MPs have reported criminal cases against them. One out of two among them (over 50%) has cases that could attract penalties of imprisonment of five years or more. While token attempts at reforming the electoral system have been made from time to time over the last many years, to take care of some these distortions, particularly whenever it has suited the party in power, there has hardly been any attempt at making any significant and substantial changes in the electoral system. Electoral reform is a change in the electoral system such that genuine public desires find expression in election results. There have been a number of reports and recommendations on what needs to be done. Some of the significant examples are the Indrajit Gupta Report, the Dinesh Goswami Report, the 170th Report of the Law Commission of India on Review of the working of political parties and Electoral Reforms and the Recommendations of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC). The remarkable fact however is that almost none of the recommendations of these learned and painstakingly prepared reports have been implemented. The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution has come out with a Consultation Paper especially in relation to elections and reform options.
2. ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN INDIA
First-past-the-post (abbreviated FPTP or FPP) voting refers to an election won by the candidate(s) with the most votes. The winning candidate does not necessarily receive an absolute majority of all votes cast. Indian democracy has the First Past The Post (FPTP) as its electoral system to provide representation to voters in State Assemblies and in the Parliament of India.
FPTP system has played an important historical role in consolidating democracy in the post independence India. With time however many distortions have crept into the system which have undermined the democratic aspirations of the people. For example, the FPTP may allow political parties to come to power, both in the States and at the Centre, with minority of votes. There are many instances where parties with less than 30% of votes have won a large percentage of seats and had claimed the right to form governments. The vast majority of voters, in this system, are left unrepresented in governance. The present electoral system in India encourages corruption and use of muscle power and communal pull to gain the slight margin of winning votes. Parties that have the power to manipulate voters using their economic power, are more often than not successful in gaining a dominant position in the governance structure. ELECTORAL SYSTEM IN OTHER COUNTRIES. Proportionate Electoral System: Proportionate Electoral System is being widely practiced in many democracies (such as in Italy and Scotland) of the world. More and more countries are shifting to Proportional Representation. In PR electoral system any party can gain seats only in proportion to the percentage of votes that it gains. There will not be any difference between the percentage of votes and the percentage of seats. This allows parties with a majority voter support to come to power. Pure popular vote: The presidency of a nation goes to the candidate with the largest plurality. This is the Presidential system being followed in US and other countries. The disadvantage is that it does little to solve the problems of a two party system. In the Indian context this system undermines the rights guaranteed to the states that safeguard the unity of a diverse India.
Popular vote with runoff election: This is like the pure popular vote option, except that instead of holding primaries followed by a general election, a free-for-all election is followed by a runoff between the two top vote-getters. This is practised, for example, in Egypt and France. Preferential popular vote: In this system, the voter gets a chance to mark his or her choices against each candidate and if the voter’s first choice candidate loses, the vote is transferred to the second choice and if he also loses , to the third choice and so on.. The candidate who got the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated (his or her votes being transferred to the voters’ second choice candidates). The least popular remaining candidate is thus eliminated and so on until someone has a majority. This leads to a very complex counting process. This system is commonplace in Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, with several minor variations in each locality. Preferential electoral vote: This is an attempt to introduce the advantages of the preferential method into the Electoral College. The voters in each state cast preferential ballots. A state awards its electoral votes according to the first choice vote count. If nobody got a majority of the Electoral College, the votes of losing candidates would be transferred to those voters’ secondary choices, and the electoral vote would be recomputed. Electoral votes would have to be awarded proportionally by each state, not by the winner-take-all. If winner-take-all is used, the preferential part of the system would quite likely to be inoperative. The main disadvantage is that, this is similar to an inaccurate version of weighted preferential popular votes. Popular approval vote: Approval voting consists of giving a “yes” vote for every candidate that you put up, and a “no” vote for all those you can not. Simply put, you can vote for as few or as many
of the candidates as you wish. It’s like preferential voting system except that it is without a hierarchy of individual ranking. The winner is the candidate with the most total “yes” votes. It has the same advantage as the preferential system, and it’s simpler, imposing no extra difficulties with counting or requiring new voting machinery.
3. POLITICAL PARTIES IN INDIA – CHANGING FACE
The evolution of the party system after Independence presents a study of transformation from one-party dominant system to a complex of multi-party configuration. The resulting political system presently reflects trends of fragmentation, factionalism, casteism, communal politics and regionalism. Endemic within this system is a tendency to form opportunistic alliances for seeking a share in the pie of power, irrespective of any strong ideological or programmatic commitments. The last decade of the 20th century saw a sharp rise in political mobilization on the basis of social cleavages based on divisive identities, in particular of religion and caste. Casteism, communalism and personality domination have been the main planks around which the fragmentation of political parties has taken place. Political parties have invariably exploited ensuing instability for gaining electoral support and mobilisation of the voters on issues which are not even remotely of national concern. Structural and functional problems which ail most of the political parties are:1. Absence of inner party democracy. 2. Abysmal representation of women in the party leadership. 3. Lack of ideology and values in party politics. 4. Lack of training of party members to inculcate core party ideology and party’s strategy for social change.
5. Lack of funds available for political functioning. 6. Weak and nepotistic party leadership. 7. Increasing role of regionalism, casteism and communalism within the parties. 8. Accommodation of criminals within the Party and acceptance of violence as a legitimate functional mode. 9. Fractionalization within the party and opportunistic coalitions with other political parties. 10. Insensitivity to issues of governance.
4. ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA ON ELECTORAL REFORM
On 12th of June 2011, the 7th Regional Consultation on Electoral Reforms was organized jointly by the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and the Election Commission of India. The meeting was held in Guwahati. The deliberations centered around the issues listed below. • Various options for voting systems, such as proportional representation, a two-round system (runoff voting, approval voting, citizen initiatives and referendums) and recall elections. • Institutionalization of Political Parties - Need for a comprehensive legislation to regulate party activities. Criteria for Registration as a National or State Party - De-recognition of Parties. • Structural and organizational Reforms - Party organizations – National, State and local levels - Inner Party democracy - Regular Party Elections, recruitment of party cadres, socialization, development and training, research, thinking and policy planning activities of the party. • Problems of Party Funding -Need for a legislation to regulate
party funds - distribution and spending of party funds during nonelection and election times. Maintenance of Regular Accounts by the Political Parties-Auditing and publishing – making audited accounts available for open inspection.
• Steps to check criminalisation of political parties. Debarring until
cleared by the court, persons charge sheeted for offences of 5 years or more
• Problem of proliferation of independent candidates • Review of present voter and contestant eligibility and vote-
• Nomination procedures of candidates • Electoral constituencies • Ballot design and voting equipment • Monitoring of electoral process by candidates, political parties,
• Safety of voters and election workers • Measures against bribery, coercion, and conflicts of interest • Financing of candidates’ and referendum campaigns • Factors which affect the rate of voter participation (voter turnout)
THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA asked the Election Commission of India to issue directives to make it mandatory for the candidates submitting nominations to give an affidavit with details such as :• Whether any criminal case is pending against them • Financial assets of the candidate, his/her spouse and dependents
• Educational qualifications & financial liabilities of the candidate
MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS ON ELECTORAL REFORMS IN INDIA BY VARIOUS FORUMS
• Abolish the first-past-the-post system and make the requirement
of 50% of votes + 1 as mandatory to declare a winner.
• Simultaneous elections for Union and state legislatures and use
of common electoral rolls in the union and state elections.
• Fixed tenure of elected legislative bodies. A no-confidence
motion should be followed by a confidence motion.
• Regulate the number of registered parties. • Do not allow candidates to contest from more than one
constituency in an election.
• Do not allow negative/neutral voting. • Ban publication of exit/opinion poll results till voting in all the
phases is complete.
• A candidate must file his income tax return for the previous two
years from the constituency which he/she wants to represent. All candidates if elected (each year) and their close relatives must publicly declare their total assets, before and after the election. Making false declarations in election affidavits is an offence.
• No change of party or change of status of a candidate to an
independent member should be permitted till the announcement of the next elections.
• The total election expenditure permissible by a candidate should be
related to the legitimate election expenses and should be defined.
• All candidates must be required to submit audited accounts,
with receipts, of poll expenditure. The EC (Election Commission)
must have adequate auditing manpower to have accounts checked within 30 days after the counting of ballot papers. Over expenditure by 5% or more or discrepancies in the accounts amounting to over 5% should be grounds for disqualification of a candidate.
• The security deposit should be equal to 10% of the expenditure
limit set by the EC and should be counted in the total poll expenditure of the candidate.
• Each candidate must be able to correctly speak, write and read in
the official language of the state (from where he/she is contesting the election) or in Hindi.
• There should be an upper age limit to contest an election. • The candidate must be found medically and mentally fit, to
discharge the normal duties of a legislator, by a team of doctors appointed by the EC. Only then he/she will be allowed to contest.
• The size of the Council of Ministers must be limited to 10% of the
legislators in larger houses (over 120 members) and to 15% in smaller ones (less than 100). A minimum of 12 ministers may be permitted for even the smallest house.
• The donation by an individual or company to a candidate must
not exceed 5% of the total expenditure permissible. The total donation made by an individual or a company to all candidates in an election must not exceed 50% of the total permissible expenditure by one candidate. All donations given and received must be in public knowledge.
• The electronic voting machines must be made tamper proof and
• Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPT), a supplement to the existing
EVM system. VVPT includes a printed ballot as a receipt which a voter can view to verify his or her vote before leaving an EVM. The method can ensure the accuracy of recorded votes by allowing the tally to be checked later by counting the collected receipts.
• To curb last minute inducements with cash, liquor etc a total
prohibition of all forms of contact with the electorate, including door-to-door visits, 48 hours before the conclusion of polling.
• There should be a check on advertisements, including surrogate
ones that appear in the print media on the day of the polling.
5. A NEW ELECTORAL STATERGY
Rationale:-AIPF supports the campaign for a Proportionate Electoral System in India (CERI), but believes that an optimum representation can only be brought about by a combination of the FPTP and the PR systems. This approach, the AIPF believes, will strengthen the existing electoral system to evolve a healthier democratic tradition. The PR system is widely in practice in many democracies of the world and more and more countries are shifting to Proportional Representation. In PR electoral system any party can gain seats only in proportion to the percentage of votes that it gains. There is no difference between the percentage of votes and the percentage of seats. Thus only parties with more percentage of voter support can come to power. In PR system majority means more than 50% of votes. The other votes are not wasted. They are given to other candidates in order to provide representation to all voters in the Assemblies and in the Parliament. If parties are unable to gain more than 50% of votes they have to make coalitions of parties with similar ideologies before elections
in order to influence voters. PR system has multi-member constituencies. This enables two or more members getting elected from the same constituency in order to provide representation to different parties. In PR electoral system inner party democracy is a must. Political parties prepare a list of candidates before the elections selected through inner party elections and submit the same to the Election Commission. Candidates of parties are declared elected from this list in the same proportion as the percentage of votes that party or a coalition obtains. The list thus prepared by the political parties, constituency of the nominated candidate is also indicated. This enables voters from that constituency to vote for the party to which their popular candidate belongs. If a party fields many popular candidates their percentage of votes increases in many constituencies. Thus the popularity of party ideology and the popularity of candidates are both reflected in the PR system. Many countries where PR system is followed, election expenses are sponsored by the State. This prevents corruption, money and muscle power, malpractices, play of emotions on communal and caste basis etc. Proportionate Electoral System provides ample space for formation of coalitions representing smaller communities that do not have the chance of being represented in FPTP. Smaller parties representing unrepresented communities can make a coalition and gain required percentage of votes in order to come to a winning position of power. This is very important for the survival of democratic governance in India in favour of the poor and also minimization of corruption and electoral violence and enhancement of inner party democracy.
AIPF Recommendations for a Reformed Electoral System in India
Who will be in the Parliament/ Assembly?
1. There will be 2 x 542 = 1084 members of parliament and all state legislatures will have double their present membership. (Presently the strength of Loksabha is 542) 2. 50% of the members shall compulsorily be women. 3. 542 members will be elected through nomination by political parties, based on proportional representation (PR), for parliament. 4. The other MP/ MLA in each constituency will be elected by FPTP, on condition that he/ she should secure 50% + 1 vote to get elected. 5. If in one election one male MP is elected by PR, the other MP in the same constituency shall be a woman elected by FPTP. For the next election, the gender representation shall be reversed. 6. The current norms for reservation of seats for SC/ST candidates should continue. 7. If an elected representative resigns his/ her seat, he/ she will be disqualified for the term of the house and cannot contest that or any other constituency during this period. A new candidate will have to contest in his/ her place. 8. No individual can contest more than one seat. 9. Wherever state legislative councils are in place, Graduate Constituencies should be abolished and in their place, Workers’ Constituencies should be constituted. Any worker/ employee of any enterprise with ESI card or a valid company ID can register as a voter.
Who is eligible to contest election?
1. Parties have to choose their candidates by primaries following democratic selection process from within the party. The names of two alternative candidates are to be publicly declared and published on the Internet. If any objections are raised to the candidatures, the objections should be publicaly declared and automatically recorded in a webpage put up by the Election Commission. 2. Parties have to nominate their candidates at least 6 months before the election and give sufficient time for the Election Commission to verify the credentials of the candidate, his/ her criminal record, property details etc. If the candidate’s nomination is invalid, there will be an alternative name and a second alternative name for candidature. If all three are rejected, the Party can not contest the seat. 3. While educational qualification is not a necessary criterion, the candidate should be able to read and write in his/her native language when he/she contests the state legislature elections and should be conversant in Hindi/ English for parliament elections. 4. Similarly, advanced age cannot be a bar to nomination, but the candidate should be mentally and physically sound to contest an election and discharge his/ her duties as a law maker.
How does the electorate vote?
1. All voting will be electronic and a voter can cast his/her vote from anywhere in the country for parliament elections and from anywhere outside the state for assembly elections. Voter identification will be by bio-metric ID and a voter ID card is not compulsory. If a voter wants to cast his/ her vote from outside an election area (for example: outside the state where elections are being held) or outside the country or for a valid reason while being within the country, he/ she should register his/ her name by past or through Internet and will be given a unique ID number, which he/she can use to cast his/her vote by post or through Internet. 2. Voting will be compulsory and Election Commission has to ensure that voters will be able to cast their votes with ease. All voting machines should be connected to Internet and also tamper proof. Any public building/ workplace can be used for polling and each polling booth will be securely guarded. Voter ID will be through an Intelligent Card, which may also be used for obtaining government permissions, drawing money from banks, making payments, buying air/ train tickets etc. The Voter Intelligent ID Card is activated for 5 years, only after a vote is cast. If someone does not cast his/ her vote, without a valid reason that act should be made a punishable offence.
1. The amount of money deposited by a candidate will be a minimum of 10% of the allowed election expenses and shall be included in the total expenditure of the candidate. If a candidate loses deposit in two consecutive elections, his/her deposit amount for the third election will be 50% of the allowed election expenditure. If he/ she chooses to contest a fourth time, after losing deposit three times, the deposit amount will be 100% of the allowed election expenses. If they lose the forth time he/ she will be debarred from contesting any seat. This is for discouraging non-serious candidates. 2. Travel expenses of central party leaders will be included in the candidate’s election expenditure. The total allowed expenses of the central party leaders per seat contested by the Party, will be fixed by the EC. This expenditure includes money spent on media advertising, sponsored programs, free travel/ boarding arranged by private persons/ corporate sector, etc. 3. There should be State funding of elections. This is justified constitutionally and legally. Such funding should be confined to parties recognised as national or state parties by the Election Commission. To begin with, only a part of the financial burden of political parties may be charged to the state. A greater burden could be progressively shifted to the state in future so that ultimately all the legitimate electoral expenses will be charged to the state. The state funding should be in kind and not in cash. A separate state fund should be created for meeting the electoral expenses.
1. Political parties should adhere to strict norms laid out by the Election Commission. Parties and the candidates should be barred from making provocative speeches inciting violence of a communal / casteist/ regional hatred nature., and/or distributing liquor, money etc to the electorate. If a candidate or a leader of a political party violates this, not only the candidate, but all the candidates put up by the Party will be disqualified from contesting the election for two consecutive elections. The Party will also be disqualified from participating in two consecutive elections. Video evidence or reports in the media are adequate grounds to initiate action against a candidate or a Party. 2. Criminal and anti-social elements will be identified and any Political Party or its candidate employing these elements for campaigning will also be barred from two consecutive elections.
1. There should be a law requiring all recognized political parties to keep audited accounts and sources of all income and details of expenditure. False accounts should be made a punishable offense. 2. All political parties have to submit a list of its members to the State/ Regional Election Commission every year. No political party can nominate a candidate who has not been a party member for the last two years, before his/ her nomination. 3. Political Parties which intend to enter into election alliances should
announce their intentions to contest together six months prior to the election. Anti-defection law should be applicable to election alliances also. If parties decide to break their alliance, then all the candidates belonging to the alliance will have to forfeit their seats also. 4. Support to be rendered to any government from “outside”, i.e. without joining the coalition government, should be legally barred. Only a party having at least 25 percentage of seats in the Lower House of parliament or Assembly should be entitled to form the government.
Elected Members - Code of Conduct
1. Yardsticks used for prosecuting government servants facing criminal proceedings and placed under suspension until cleared by the courts, should be applied to the politicians as well. 2. There should be strict norms for the functioning of the legislative bodies. Any member who indulges in the use of the office for personal business promotion during the term of his office should forego his/her seat. 3. Members who are present for less then 80% of the time of house business in a year will automatically cease to be members. This should also include those who suffer from chronic illness. 4. Any member of a legislative body will face charges of sedition and will be tried for treason and anti-national activities, if he/she makes provocative speeches or makes such statements that incite violence as well as regional, communal and casteist sentiments. Video evidence or reports in the media are adequate grounds to initiate action and to frame charges against such a member.
5. AIPF suggests that every elected representative should seek the confidence of the voters in his/ her constituency once a year. The confidence vote will be recorded electronically. Though this may cause a heavy burden on the state, this will ensure that the elected representatives enjoy the confidence of the voters throughout their term of office. In case, an elected member loses the confidence (gets less than 50%+1 of the valid votes) there will be re-election in that constituency. There will be no campaigning for the confidence vote. 6. For the large parliamentary membership that we recommend there will be only two weekly sessions of the house for each sitting. For the rest of the period, the members have to be nominated by their respective political parties to various panels that will transact business. For example, there can be a panel on internal security, one on finance, another on commerce, one on foreign affairs etc. This will enable the house to devote more time to all issues and ensure that all members participate in the debates and make their voices heard. The joint session will review the proceedings of each panel.
A number of academic and research institutions, political observers and analysts, committees and commissions appointed by the Government of India from time to time and concerned scholars, journalists and academicians in their individual capacities have made a number of proposals for reforms in the party system in India. Some of the most significant of these are culled here in order to provide a perspective for framing recommendations for election reforms. President K R Narayanan (1999) Political parties should ensure that criminals are denied tickets for elections. Entry of criminals can be prevented without passing any law. Anti-Defection Law, under which one-third members of the total strength of a party are allowed to split it, is not working well. If anybody wants to change his party after being elected on that party’s ticket, he should resign from the Parliament or the Legislature and face the electorate. If there is such a rule very few defections will take place. Center for Policy Research Study (Lok Raj Baral) on Party Reforms (2000)/ (A1) 1. Reforming the first-past-the-post system of election- The German model that accepts a preferential voting system can be examined for ensuring proportionate representation of parties in parliament. 2. Since all parties work in tandem with unscrupulous business lobbies and gangsters or use state power for determining the outcome of elections, these cancerous trends need to be checked for good governance. 3. Political parties should have minimum principles for forming a coalition government rather than forge alliances only to be in government. Unprincipled political alignment should be discouraged by law urging political parties to be more homogenous in their joint endeavors of running the coalition government. 4. Support to be rendered to any government from “outside”, i.e. without joining the coalition government, should be legally
barred. Only a party having at least 25 per cent seats in the Lower House of parliament or Assembly should have a chance to form the government. 5. No government should be removed from office if the opposition parties or others involved in the toppling game fail to come out with a clear alternative arrangement and programme. 6. The kind of coalitional arrangements that the parties make should be clear before forming the government. Developments so far show that the big parties themselves prefer to play second fiddle to the regional and smaller parties whose immediate interests are determined by ‘regional and parochial’ issues rather than long term national programmes. 7. Parties need to strengthen their managerial and crisis management capacity. If the party organizations are better managed and democratized, their efficiency would increase. More autonomy to all layers and more inner-party democracy would help circulate leaders on the basis of their qualities. The criterion of achievement rather than ascription should be accepted by all parties. Unless parties are broad based in accommodating all segments of society, they continue to become statusquoits, exclusivist, regional and sectarian. 8. Parties’ own code of conduct and self-initiated reforms, rather than state-imposed reforms are likely to improve the working of parties. V. M. Tarakunde Committee (1974-75) An important recommendation of this committee was that there should be a law requiring all recognized political parties to keep audited accounts and sources of all income and details of expenditure, with false accounts being a punishable offence. Dinesh Goswami Committee Report (1990) The main recommendations of the Committee were as follows:
1. A three-member election commission and appointment of the Chief Election commissioner in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and the leader of the opposition and the appointment of other Election commissioners in consultation with CEC; 2. A fresh de-limitation of the constituencies on the basis of 1981 census and rotation of seats reserved for SCs and STs; 3. Issuing of multi-purpose photo identity cards to voters; 4. Disallowance of contesting by candidates from more than two constituencies; 5. The raising of security deposits of independent candidates and forfeiture of security deposits of all candidates failing to secure at least ¼th of the votes polled; 6. Statutory status to the model code of conduct formulated by the Election Commission; 7. Introduction of electronic voting machine; 8. Legislative measures against booth-capturing, rigging and intimidation of voters; 9. Limited state-funding in kind to recognized political parties, to begin with; 10. Transportation of voters, carrying of fire arms, sale and distribution of liquor on poll day to be cognizable electoral offence in law; 11. Restriction of disqualification under the anti-defection law to voluntary resignation and violation of party whips only in cases of vote of confidence, money bills and vote of thanks to the President; 12. A review of the electoral system by a standing Committee of the Parliament and by an expert Committee. 13. Chapter 5 of the Goswami Committee Report also made some recommendations relating to political parties and candidates.
The main reform proposed was the deletion of Section 29(A) of the RP Act concerning registration of parties. The matter, instead should be delegated to be solely decided by the Election Commission under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment, 1968). The Committee did not feel the necessity of recognizing electoral alliances of political parties or changing present procedure of allotment of symbols. Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer Committee (1994) The Krishna Iyer Committee recommended that a law should ensure inner-party democracy in all political parties. It also reiterated a legal sanction for proper audit and accounts. Besides it proposed the institution of a Commissioner to examine and decide whether a political party was promoting communalism or in any way acting against the Constitution. Indrajit Gupta (1998) It was in June 1998 that the Indrajit Gupta Committee was set up to go into the central issue of election funding. Preceded by an all-India party meet a month earlier in May 1998, the Committee finalised its report on December 30, 1998. The committee headed by the late CPI stalwart stressed that the state funding of elections was fully justified - constitutionally and legally. It observed that such funding should be confined to parties recognised as national or state parties by the Election Commission. To begin with only a part of the financial burden of political parties may be shifted to the state. A greater burden could be progressively shifted to the states so that ultimately all their legitimate expenses become a charge on the state. The committee suggested that state funding be in kind not cash. It desired the creation of a separate election fund for meeting the expenses on state funding of elections. The committee noted that political parties must submit their annual accounts regularly to the income tax authorities showing details of receipts and expenditure. Political parties should also file a complete account of their election expenditure, both on general party propaganda and on individual candidates.
Law Commission’s Report (1998) The recommendations of the Law Commission can be summed up as follows: 1. Independent candidates be barred from contesting elections to the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. 2. Full five year term for the legislatures. 3. In order to contain defections, a “pre-poll coalition” or front of political parties should be treated as a “political party”. 4. Inclusion in the RPA to regulate the formation, functioning and income-expenditure accounts of political parties and to avoid their splintering and ensure internal democracy. 5. Scrapping of explanation I to section 77(1) of the RPA to make the electoral system more representative, fair and transparent - making it obligatory for every candidate to declare his/her assets and of his/ her spouse and dependent relations as well as provide particulars regarding criminal cases pending against them. 6. On state funding of political parties, recommendations of the Indrajit Gupta Committee subject to certain changes, be adopted. 7. In case of electoral offences and certain other serious offences, framing of a charge by the court should itself be a ground for disqualification in addition to conviction. Relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure be amended to check false complaints. 8. Only a candidate obtaining 50 percent or more votes be declared elected, holding of “run off” elections wherever necessary. 9. Any party, which receives less than five percent of the total vote in elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies “shall not be entitled to any seat”.
10. Use of electronic voting machine in all the elections. 11. Restriction on frequency of “no-confidence motions” 12. List system on the German model for 25% or 50% additional seats and concept of negative vote. Justice Kuldeep Singh Panel (2002) 1. To prevent criminalisation of politics, the candidates with a criminal background or those facing substantial criminal charges framed by a court be debarred from contesting elections. 2. Just as government servants facing criminal proceedings are placed under suspension until cleared by the courts, the same yardstick should be applied to politicians as well. 3. Election Commission should bring effective changes in the model code of conduct to exclude candidates from contesting elections who have criminal proceedings pending against them. And, if the Election Commission cannot do this, Parliament must do it. 4. More effective laws be created that will prevent criminals from entering the political process. The legal reforms can push criminals out of the system. New legal initiatives such as amendments in Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act 1951 could empower the Election Commission to deal with crime-tainted politicians. 5. If we cannot bar criminals from contesting elections until they are convicted by the courts, then the next best course would be to get speedy verdicts in their cases. Special courts and benches to try cases against legislators and other high profile people should be set up for speedy trials. Suggestions by Academics/ Scholars/ Journalists etc.: 1. Indian parties should seriously consider adopting the leadership convention system. It would make the leadership selection process more democratic and federal. Second, the nation would introduce a nationally aggregative mechanism in major parties and curb the
tendency of regionalisation and fragmentation. This will go a long way in making parties aggregative and thus more functional in a parliamentary federal system of governance (A2). 2. The Joint Committee of Parliament on Amendments to Electoral Laws (1971-72) considered and rejected the proposal for changing the First –past- the- post (FPTP) system, but recommended the formation of an expert committee to review it. S. L. Shakdher, the then Election Commissioner and L. P. Singh supported the view, besides the Goswami Committee. Nobody has argued for a pure PR (proportional representation) system but a mix of PR and plurality system. The Tarakunde Committee recommended two alternative formulae for consideration. The first was the German formula (double vote, half of the seats by direct plurality system, ‘top-up’ on the basis of the second vote, provision for additional members) modified, if necessary, to change the mix of direct and list seats from ½ : ½ to 2/3 : 1/3. The second involved single vote polling as in the present system, all candidates who secure a majority of votes to be declared elected directly, the rest of the seats to be filled from party lists according to the proportion of votes for each party (top-up procedure) with some relaxation for independents. 3. For curbing the incidence of political violence and terrorism there should be express provision for de-recognition of political parties, if there is violation of Sub-Section (5) of Section 29 A of R. P. Act 1951.9 relating to upholding of the allegiance to the Constitution of India and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy and the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India. It is to be noted that a recent draft Bill on Electoral Reform provides for de-registration of political parties. However, there is a provision for appeal in Courts/ (A3) 4. Some qualifications can be laid down; impeccable integrity, proven ability, academic standards in consonance with the requirements of the job, otherwise leaders can be a liability. And surely, rule of the majority does not mean rule by the illiterate/ (A4)
5. It should be made mandatory for all political parties to nominate women in at least a third of the seats contested by them. 6. There is need for a law to make it compulsory for every recognized political party to annually declare and publish, along with its constitution and list of duly elected office bearers, the list of its primary members and the subscriptions collected from them, among all other sources. (Chief Election Commisioner M.S. Gill). Proposed Electoral reforms by Anna Hazare and his followers “ People should have the right to reject”,”People should be allowed to use the option not to vote if they don’t like any candidate”. Other suggestions include:Holding Primaries: In the current system the party bosses have the ultimate say in terms of their candidates. The best way is to introduce “primaries” or “preliminary elections” for all recognized parties. These preliminary election would then determine who the candidate of a particular party will be. Laws can be made to decide who can vote in these primaries. After the primary elections the top voted candidate from each party goes on to the main election. Removal of the anti-defection law: The anti-defection law was passed in 1985 as the 52nd amendment to the Indian constitution. Allowing the MPs to vote their conscience would mean government motions may fail resulting in the government being forced to resign under the collective responsibility principle. This is not desirable. So additional changes would be necessary to avoid this. In the absence of anti-defection laws, a cultural shift could be effected wherein legislators across party lines can think independently and come together to propose bi-partisan Bills in a manner similar to what we see in the United States. Provide mechanisms to recall an elected representative: If an elected representative is out-of-synch with the voters of his/her constituency
there should be a mechanism to recall that representative and have a new election. That way elected representatives can’t forget their voters between elections and only show up around the election time. (Team Anna has mentioned this as one of their goals.) Government funding of election: Corruption by the elected representatives is abetted also because they have to find funds for their election expenses. Direct election of CM and PM but with term limits of maximum of two terms: CMs and PMs should have a term limit of maximum of two terms. This will allow for young leadership to emerge more easily. By virtue of being the leader of the House the person elected to the all-State or all-India constituency will have to be invited by the Governor or the President to form the next Government as the Chief Minister or Prime Minister. Irrespective of whether a party or a combination of parties has a legislative majority the Chief Minister or Prime Minister will have a fixed term which will be the same as the term of the legislature. Removal of the Chief Minister or Prime Minister would thus require a higher legislative bar similar to a Presidential impeachment. The anti-defection law will become redundant and irrelevant since the Government no longer depends on a simple majority in the legislature. The Chief Minister or Prime Minister could then also have the additional freedom to appoint members to his Cabinet from outside the legislature thus eliminating another source of instability and dissidence. Instead of “Right to Reject” allow “Write-in” candidates: The idea behind “right to reject” is that during voting there should be a option of “No One.” However, a better idea is to have a write-in option where people can write the name of the person (who is not in the ballot) who they want to vote for. So people can write “No one” if they desire to do so. Or they can write someone’s name.
A1. Lok Raj Baral, “Political Parties and Governance in South Asia” in V. A. Pai Panandikar, Problems of Governance in South Asia, Delhi, (Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd.), 2000, pp. 155-199. A2. M. P. Singh, Towards Greater Federalism, The Pioneer, 16 December 1997. A3. Raisa Ali, Representative Democracy and Concept of Free and Fair Elections, New Delhi, (Deep & Deep), 1996 A4. Jawaharlal Gupta, “while the worst are full of passion”, Hindustan Times, 28 June 2000.
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