The Need of the hour is Electoral Reforms

After the introduction of adult franchise in 1947 fifty percent of the Indian population became eligible to cast their votes. Earlier it was 14 percent of the population and even less in 1900s. But that did not prevent the then government to enact laws which abolished sati, female infanticide, child marriage and acts which legalized widow remarriage, protected historical monuments and provided job reservations to backward class people. This shows that good governance can be carried out without the approval of the mob.

Just observe how political parties during elections paste posters all over the public spaces disregarding municipal rules not to deface the town. On the Election Day they dug up roads to set up pandals near polling booths to house their agents and on winning the election burst fire crackers right in the middle of busy roads hindering movement of traffic and polluting the atmosphere. This shows that political parties and their workers lack even basic civic sense and to these idiots we are asking to run the administration. But sometimes I feel whether they are idiots or the people who vote for them including those who think that if there is 100 percent voting everything will change.

Many people had earlier overestimated the role of RTI act. But now they may have probably realized that it is nothing but another toothless act. RTI activists are first silenced by threats and if it does not work they are killed. If still information about irregularities committed is availed through RTI and published nothing happens. For instance in various frauds, politicians like Kalmadi and Kanimozhi were arrested and sent to jail. But now they are back and even received hero welcome when released from jail. These politicians with their ill-gotten money take the services of top-notch advocates and may even come out clean. (We have seen how a magistrate in Andhra Pradesh gave bail to a politician after receiving bribe). These politicians may even win elections with huge margin as people show sympathy for them for having been to jail. This shows the level of political intelligence of our masses.

There are some activists who criticize the apathy of the middle class and literate to cast their vote and ask them to emulate the poor and slum dwellers who stand in long queues to cast their votes. But many do not know that unlike these activists these people are not under any illusion that by casting their votes their plight will be changed overnight. They vote because political parties ferry them to the polling booth in vehicles and give them money, liquor, biriyani and other goodies. For these people the Election Day is some sort of relief from their daily drudgery and a day on which they are pampered. Some of them (especially in rural areas) are also very innocent who believe in the sweet talks of candidates who go to their doorsteps, address them mother, brother, sister and fall at their feet to receive blessings.

Today new political parties like Lok Satta and Aam Admi party with a sincere intention to serve the people have come up. But remember the BJP’s former avatar; the Jan Sangh was also highly idealistic in its approach when founded by Shyam Prasad Mukerjee. But soon the party realized that in the present electoral system they cannot come to power and followed the footsteps of the Congress party in developing strategies on how to win elections through fair or foul means. Real change means just after a party comes to power the next day you go to any government office and get your work done without any delay, hassles or by paying bribe. The whole political system including the bureaucracy should be overhauled. As Indians are averse to radical reforms at least as a first step electoral reforms should be undertaken by restricting franchise and introducing changes like-

  • The age limit of voters should be raised to 30 for local bodies/ state assemblies and 35 for parliamentary elections. The upper limit should be 80.
  • For candidates standing for elections the minimum age should be 35 and the upper age limit should be 75.
  • Candidates wishing to stand for elections and those wishing to cast their votes should pass in a test wherein their awareness about the state/country’s history, constitution, culture, GK, current issues, working of the judiciary, government, etc. are tested through an objective type examination. A small amount of fee (Rs 50 or Rs 100) should be levied on those taking these tests and this will cover the expenses involved in conducting the test and paying remuneration to the evaluators.
  • The names of those who have passed the test should be entered in the central data bank of voters of a State and the passed candidates should be given voter’s ID card.
  • Just as a candidate standing for elections should deposit some money, voters should be made to pay a token amount, say Rs 50 for casting their votes. This move will make only serious voters to cast their votes and the money collected could be utilized for conducting elections.
  • Banning a sitting M.L.A/M.P from resigning and joining another party and contesting elections.
  • Banning candidates from contesting in more than one constituency.
  • A sitting MLA should not be allowed to contest parliamentary elections and a sitting municipal councillor from assembly elections.
  • Allegation of corruption and nepotism levied against sitting MLAs/MPs, Ministers, Chief Minister/Prime Minister should be tried by Special Courts and disposed within one month. As a first step the accused should be taken into custody, denied bail and all their financial transaction be blocked. The accused should be allowed to appeal against the ruling given by the Special Court in the Supreme Court which should also be disposed within one month.
  • The trend now is that if caught committing a crime, you could escape being punished if you are a politician. Hence punishment awarded to politicians should be so severe that criminals should think twice before choosing politics as a career.
  • Curtailing the privileges given to politicians like free air transport, bungalows, Z category security, etc. (For instance instead of giving each Cabinet Ministers a bungalow they should be allotted rooms in the Rashtrapathi Bhavan).
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