PM Modi recently advocated for simultaneous elections for the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. This has set off the debate over the long pending electoral reforms in the country.
Over the last 6 decades, the Election Commission (EC) had managed to make the world’s largest democratic process free and fair.
It is more often the case in India that the executive had not shown much interest on this very subject, which created space for judiciary to intervene. Experts argue that electoral reforms in India are driven more by judicial pronouncements.
Let’s see some of them –
So, let’s revisit the recent issues related to electoral reforms, which were making headlines in the country in the recent past:
It basically means that govt. extending financial assistance (cash/kind) to political parties (partly/fully) for contesting elections. The objective is to control and eliminate outside pressure over govt. policies and functioning by vested interests.
It will also help in controlling the flow of unaccounted money and muscle power during elections and control the levels of corruption in public life.
The voting in elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly are optional in India, but it is compulsory in 33 countries of the world including Brazil, Australia, Egypt, etc
The Gujarat Local Authorities Law ( Amendment) Act 2009, has made voting compulsory in local bodies election.
In 2013, Central Information Commission (CIC) held that National Political Parties (NPP) are public authorities within the meaning of Sec 2(h) of RTI Act and directed them to appoint public information officer to provide necessary information as required by the citizens.
However, all the 6 NPP had defied the direction of CIC on the ground that they are not public authorities within the meaning of RTI Act.
The basic rationale behind imposing the official limits on expenditure is to provide a level playing field. This is criticized as the resources are limited, candidates are not able to convey their message and thus voters are not able to make informed choice.
The bigger problem is that candidates rely almost completely on unaccounted cash from undisclosed donors. This also negates the transparency initiatives of the EC.
According to a SC judgment, prisoner’s are second-class citizens and therefore it is necessary to exclude their polluting influence from the sanctity of democratic process. It is criticized on the account that there is no-offence/ sentence based classification. It does not distinguish between prisoners, under-trials and those in lawful custody.
The Aadhaar no. has the potential to resolve the issue of migration and thus avoiding duplication < It makes possible to enrol a person in one polling station and simultaneously remove his name from a different polling station. Currently, this process is very cumbersome, giving rise to multiple voter cards for a single person>
It will also facilitate easy incorporation of minors in the electoral rolls, once they turn 18 < Aadhaar is also issued to Minors>
It is basically the commercialization of news content for revenue generation by print/electronic media. It is essentially a advertisement which is disguised as professional news and published in media with the purpose of misleading the general public.
EC wants the paid news to be made electoral offence with not less than 2 years of imprisonment so that such individuals are disqualified from contesting elections.
Now, let’s come to recent issue of simultaneous elections
Current System: The current system of election increases accountability as representatives are worried about fighting elections and winning it. It also gives boost to the economy, creating work opportunities for people at different levels, especially the grassroots section.
Need : Administrative issues arising out of frequent and successive elections such as the provision of Model Code of Conduct comes into play. The cost of election has also gone up along with issues such as communalism, caste conflicts, crony capitalism, etc.
Challenge: Constitutionally, it will be impossible to implement this mandate as issues like this come up, where central govt. falls, then entire state assemblies have to be dissolved too or vice versa.
Published with inputs from Pushpendra
The scheme of things:
Limiting cash donations:
What difference will it make?
Trouble with electoral bonds:
The op-ed is important for an understanding of the electoral reforms in the country. It is important to know what changes will it or will it not bring in the country.
Transparency in electoral funding:
Reduction from Rs 2,000 to Rs 20,000:
Disparity in theory and practice:
Other two points:
Transparency in political financing will happen when the political establishment realises that the only way to get out of the shackles of big and black money is to become open. The government should bring all political parties under the purview of the RTI Act, in this direction, thus honouring the Central Information Commission’s 2013 decision. This op-ed has good points that can be incorporated in your Mains answers or Essays.
Not directly important for exam but you should know the trends in case you need to quote in answer.
Articles such as these can help you understand the role of bodies like the EC. It does not just set-up polling booths etc, but it also maintains a level playing field.
At the same time, it illustrates how decision making may be impacted/delayed by elections. Hence the govt’s proposals for simultaneous elections.
Note4students: Know about exit polls and opinion polls.
Note4students: Prelims worthy info.
Note4students: Just know about it in case there is a need to quote from objective sources to support your arguments in such answers.
If not directly, such directive by EC might form part of a prelims question as to what are its poers or what can it direct to centre or states to ensure free and fair elections. Also revise your budget and election concepts.
This is just to be aware of the happenings around important issues. Do brush up your basics about Election Commission and Model Code of Conduct and the debate around giving it legal backing.
This can be a tit-bit for prelims or an excellent example of using technology for enhancing transparency in governance or electoral reforms.
Revise basics of budget. Do understand the pros and cons of advancing the budget date. This can be a question in mains or probably interview too. And also go into other budget reforms like doing away with plan and non-plan expenditure, merging of rail budget with Union budget.
This is a very important judgment. It remains to be seen how it will be implemented, and how political parties will deal with it. Also note, the Representation of Peoples Act is the only law mentioned in UPSC syllabus by name. Issues related to it are important.
The Representation of People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State, the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses, the corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts and disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections. The Act was enacted by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election.
Such news is important for mains.
1. This topic is important for mains.
2. Task for students: Revise the chapters on EC and elections in India from Laxmikanth.
The Electoral Reforms are in the pipeline. Keep a track of the developments. We have linked this card to the story so you can surf the older cards as well.
State funding of elections and other electoral reforms such as one state and national election have been in the news frequently these past few months. They are important for mains.
State funding essentially means the state shall provide funds to political parties to contest elections, and in return, there are restrictions on their accepting funds from public sources. State funding is a concept designed to reduce corruption. Some govt committees which have looked at state funding of elections in the past are:
1. The Committee on Constitutional Reforms and the Law Commission (2015)
2. Second Administrative Reforms Commission (2008)
3. National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (2001)
The Gujarat HC directed the State Election Commission (SEC) to further promote the NOTA option among the voters in the coming local body polls.
Discuss: What can be the safeguards put into the disq. clause so that no one abuses it? Entertain only major offences, Charges filed >1 year before nomination should not be taken up, etc.