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Continue Reforms

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Although it is necessary, of course, for the election process to be impartial, free and fair, the necessity for so many phases over such a long period, as in the present case, itself hinders the necessary objectivity. A nation as large and diverse like India cannot afford to be in a kind of suspended governance over a couple of months. The people’s verdict must emerge preferably from the same set of circumstances and performance. Unfortunately, very significant events can take place in the interregnum that can influence voters in a different way. The most classic example, of course, is the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi midway through elections, which generated a sympathy wave. As such, the verdict before and after the event was greatly different. In the present situation, terrorist attacks and the possible impact of cyclone Fani, etc., will naturally affect voting behaviour.
India has done well to transform the electoral process through the introduction of technology. Otherwise, with its enormous population – four times that at the time of Independence – the sheer size of the exercise would overwhelm the system. However, for the above-mentioned reasons, a lot more needs to be done. To begin with, far stricter laws need to be introduced to discourage and prevent the kind of violence that has forced the Election Commission to phase the election over such a long period. This is necessary because the central forces, which are not intimidated by local bosses, have to be deployed in all the difficult areas. The general public too should assist in this process. If those who try strong-arm tactics are resoundingly rejected by the electorate for just that reason, political parties would be forced to change their ways.
Also, the Election Commission must be given greater powers, and must receive strong backing from the Supreme Court in the performance of its duties. It has become normal for even rank newcomers to challenge the EC’s authority and receive mileage in the media. The EVM has become an excuse to disrespect mandates. In themselves, such challenges may amount to nothing, but considering the kind of speed with which information spreads these days, they can contribute to a general atmosphere of distrust and cynicism that those inimical to the nation’s interests can exploit. At present, as is visible to all, violating the Model Code of Conduct has become the norm rather than the exception.
Other reforms worth considering include the introduction of online voting for those away from home on polling day. There can be designated centres where they should be able to cast their ballots wherever they are by establishing their identities with the help of Aadhar biometrics, etc. Postal ballots can be introduced for those who live in remote areas in small number, who otherwise require setting up of a polling booth just for them. If these actions are not taken, the day might come when elections become too gargantuan to manage.