Electoral Reforms - Key issues and steps taken to deal with them

Electoral Reforms – Key issues and steps taken to deal with them

Question - Indian elections are often perceived as unfair and based on money and muscle power. What are the key issues regarding electoral reform in India? Discuss the steps taken for bringing about electoral reform in India.

Key Issues Regarding Electoral Reform in India

• Illegal and illegitimate expenditure in elections is the fundamental issue in electoral reforms; actual expenditure is alleged to be far more than formal limits to expenditure

• Money has become the key criteria for winning elections as has muscle power

• Criminalisation of politics is another negative phenomenon in Indian politics; it is a major obstacle in the path of electoral reforms in India

• Poll violence and booth capturing are some other key issues alongside violence, pre-election intimidation and victimisation following elections. Vote rigging and silent as well as destructive booth capturing is prevalent in many part of the country

• Another issue is the misuse of government machinery to further election prospects of candidates; this includes ads at government coast and shelling out of discretionary funds to ministers as well as use of government machinery for canvassing

• Non serious candidates in political parties whose only aim is to divide the vote bank are also a common stumbling ground in the path of electoral reforms are another hurdle

• Political instability, hung parliaments and corruption are also standing in the way of electoral reforms as is mis-governance

• Casteism and polarisation of the vote bank as parties struggle to entice caste groups to vote is another roadblock for electoral reforms in India

• Ideological polarisation and case based politics have become common; secular politics is threatened and communal politics is on the rise

• This is a threat to pluralism, federalism and parliamentarianism

• Loss of moral values in politics is also a serious problem

Steps for Electoral Reform in India

• Comprehensive set of recommendations for electoral reforms have been proposed by learned committees including:

- The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Amendments to Election Law (1971-1972),
- The Tarkunde Committee Report of 1975,
- The Goswami Committee Report of 1990,
- The Constitution Bill 1994 and
- The Representation of The People (Second Amendment) Bill, 1994 (passed by Parliament),
- The Election Commission’s Recommendations in 1998 and
- Indrajit Gupta Committee Report of 1998

• Many of the suggested reforms have been implemented

• EC has prohibited use of state owned electronic media for telecast by parties

• It also seeks to prevent criminalisation of politics and provided voters with electoral identity cards

• Linking Adhaar and mobile number with voter identity is another positive step for electoral reform

• EC has also streamlined the process for registration of political parties and asked them to hold regular elections within the organisation

• EC has also stressed strict observance of the Model Code of Conduct during elections

• Enhancing accuracy of electoral rolls and providing photo identity cards for voters is another step

• SC directive of declaration of conviction or pending criminal cases when candidate contests elections is another positive step

• EC has also issued directives for candidates to declare assets and liabilities of self and family members

• Article 324 states that EC has the power to control and direct elections; using this EC has proposed a binding Code of Conduct for parties

• EC has also placed prohibitions on festoons use and asked candidates to issue expenditure statements every day
• NOTA has been introduced and EVMs are ensuring elections are conducted in a free and fair manner

• Representation of the People Act also places limits on election expenditure

• The Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms set up in 1990 limited support for donations in kind such as vehicle fuel, hiring of mic etc.

• Election and Other Related Laws Act 2003 has made it mandatory to disclose contributions above INR 20,000 to political parties

• Equitable time sharing on media channels for poll coverage is also another stipulation of the EC

• The 2nd ARC has recommended the enactment of the 10th Schedule in 1985 which seeks to control mode of functioning of political parties

• It also placed a limit on the number of political defections and laid ground for ethical conduct in politics

• 91st AA 2003
- The 91st Constitutional Amendment strengthened the anti-defection provisions of the 10th Schedule
- It is now mandatory for those changing political parties to resign legislative membership
- It also prevents legislators from holding office of profit post defection

• EC has also asked for internal elections in political parties to elect leaders and stated that defection decisions must be following its advice

• 2nd ARC has recommended that Constitution should be amended so that parties seeking coalition in the middle of the process from parties outside the coalition should seek fresh mandate from the electorate

• Election petitions filed in HC must be disposed of within 6 months

• Special election benches have been recommended for HC by the NCRWC or National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution

• 2nd ARC recommends special election tribunals

Facts and Stats

• A102 of the Indian Constitution lays down laws for disqualifying members if:

- He holds office of profit under centre/state government
- If he is declared of unsound mind by competent court
- If he is an undischarged solvent or not an Indian citizen
- If he has foreign citizenship or allegiance
- In case he is disqualified under the 10th Schedule

• The 80th AA was not successfully passed. This had sought to delink politics from caste, language, communalism etc

• Electoral reforms are ongoing in India; introduction of NOTA is one of the latest innovations

• Linking of Adhaar with voter identity is another positive step forward.
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