True Democracy: Found Wanting
Recently, the Rajya Sabha discussed electoral reforms. All opposition parties together made some proposals to the government. The government is to send these proposals to the Election Commission. It is up to the election body to take the final call on these proposals.
There is no denying that no process is full proof in ensuring free and fair elections. Those, who want to play with the law definitely try to find some loophole to use to their benefit. But that doesn’t mean even the necessary changes should not be made. Like evolution, electoral practices should also be allowed to evolve, grow and gain maturity.
Since Independence, our electoral process has undergone many changes. Old timers point out that wooden ballot boxes were not used during first general elections. Containers made of Tin were used. In the past, the election commission was a single man body. In the nineties, the constitution was amended to make it a multi member body. Similarly, earlier voters used to mark their preferences on ballot papers. Now voters are making their choices through electronic voting machines (EVMs), which has made voting and counting easy and saves time.
But in the Rajya Sabha, many opposition parties have demanded that EVMs be withdrawn and the country go back to ballot papers. Clearly, the demand is not acceptable. Blaming EVMs after defeat has now become a fashion and should not be encouraged. But at the same time to prove that EVMs are not malfunctioning or influencing the outcome, some immediate steps should be taken. It should be done taking cognisance of ordinary citizens; not what the opposition have stated in Rajya Sabha. To allay the fear of manipulation, the election commission has introduced VVPAT system to satisfy the voters and ensure that their votes were rightly cast, but more needs to be done. In the coming elections, election commission should count more and more VVPAT slips and make necessary laws to give credence to the paper trail rather than machines if there is any discrepancy between the two.
Similarly, state funding of elections should also be considered. With every passing year, political parties and candidates are spending more money on campaigning. This trend should be stopped at once. Money power has always been seen as detrimental to the health of democracy. A few suggestions such as including the cost of charter aircrafts to candidates’ expenditure among others, should also be considered. At the same time, veteran social worker Anna Hazare’s demand of giving power to recall the representative, if his performance is found to be wanting, must be considered. It may be mentioned here that it was originally Mr. Hazare’s proposal to provide the choice of NOTA to the electorate which the election commission has already accepted.
One can only hope that for the sake of Indian democracy, the election commission will sincerely examine the proposals and soon come out with its decision to make our democracy a real and healthy one.