India desperately requires electoral reforms

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 20, 2012 10:31 hrs

That India's electoral system is in desperate need of reform, there is no doubt.

Politicians have been talking about it for ages, but no concrete action has taken place so far.

Some things that can be done…

Right to Reject & Recall

Whether the voter turnout is 50% or 100%, one thing it is definitely not going to do is to make better the quality of candidates. So merely driving up voter turnout is not enough. If a candidate gets 25% vote share or 40% vote share, it’s all the same. He’ll come to power and rule for five years anyway.

One thing that will make an impact is to put the Right to Reject button directly on the EVM machine. That’s one thing that might work. If in a particular constituency all the major political parties have fielded criminal candidates or none are development prone, then voters will get a Right to Reject all of them.

That election will be declared null and void and none of the candidates will be able to stand in the subsequent elections. That’s the only thing that has the potential of increasing the quality of candidates.

Another thing required is the Right to Recall. One should not have to wait for many years if a politician has lost the moral right to rule. While this has come in for a lot of criticism, the percentage required to effect a Recall should be quite high to prevent misuse and an anarchy-like situation where politicians will be recalled left, right and centre.

Accounting for election funding

The entire electoral drama in India is run on black money. Then how can you expect the system to come clean? Corruption begins with the very electoral process. A candidate spends a lot of black money during elections and if he comes to power, he will try to get a greater amount back. That leads to even more shady deals and lack of governance.

India should adopt the system followed by various countries whereby political parties have to declare all their assets and wealth and give an account of spending of funds both for their day to day functioning and during election time.

Every candidate while swearing in gives an oath that he has spent a paltry amount during the elections. That is in effect a big lie, thereby falsifying the oath. The EC should hike the official amount that a candidate can spend in an election by a very substantive amount with the rider that that amount has to be accounted for.

If every political party is run like an efficient corporation, then the amount of corruption in India would automatically come down and elections would be fairer too.

Banning chargesheeted politicians

This is a big one. One account says that about 30% of the Lok Sabha consists of chargesheeted MPs. The figures are similar for many assemblies too. Some of the chargesheets are not that serious. They may be overlooked. For example, obscenity charges against film stars and charges slapped during political protests.

But one cannot allow charges like that of rape, murder, corruption, kidnapping and the like. Those candidates have to be kept out of the electoral process.

Certain precautions will have to be taken to ensure that innocent candidates do not have false cases filed against them in a bid to keep them out of elections.

Doordarshan Debates

The one-on-one US presidential debates are crucial in making voters make up their mind on who to vote for. PM and CM hopefuls should square off in a similar manner on Doordarshan, which has a reach right through the heart of rural India.

Right now we have a lot of news channels debates where spokespersons and representatives come and slug it out in a multitude of programmes. But the big fish always stay out. It’s practical as just some bigwig has to take the lead and the rest will automatically come for fear of looking scared.

The EC has already asked for…

Then there are many other little things that the Election Commission has already asked for:

The electoral security deposit of candidates should be hiked. There should be a restriction on how many constituencies a candidate can contest. Just before elections, there should be a stoppage of transfers of election officers.

There should be a check on Government sponsored advertisements during elections. There should be a simplification of the whole procedure for disqualification. It should be an offence to make a false declaration in connection with an election.

Ever since TN Seshan empowered the Election Commission from 1990 onwards, the EC has been doing a fine job and should be made even more powerful.

While India is a flourishing democracy, it has a long way to go before its elections can be at par with the top democracies of the world.

More by this author:

Who will be the next Prime Minister of India?

Donkeys, dynasties and a forgetful electorate

When the Congress simply lost steam

Mamata: A rebel without a cause

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at

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