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Drastic Electoral Reforms Needed

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By S Paul

I was flabbergasted to see that when our country was deep in preparation to celebrate our traditionally the most important festival of Diwali, our political aspirants obsessed with being elected to power in our city’s municipal elections were going about with loudspeakers on vans and autos along with a coterie of flag bearing people even on Diwali Day. Is the intoxication of contesting elections so much that one forgets one’s religion, too?
Why is it that only those who have some financial backing, can stand, fight and win or lose elections in our democracy? If so, it is not the leadership quality but the quantity of money that makes our elected representatives, who govern us; only to make more wealth and even secure a dynastic occupation for their children and relatives. Does this define the brand of Democracy that we are boasting of and being called the greatest democracy of the World? Does our constitution permit us to have division in our social structure by caste, region, race or religion which our greedy leaders exploit so obsessively to gain and remain in power? Are we not shamed every time our elected representatives play act to protect our democracy with their obnoxious and indecent behaviour in our Parliament? Every vocation, even thievery, in our society has some ethics; the occupation of politics in our country has none whatsoever.
We may have a claim to the largest democracy in the world but that is only because of the number of voters. Otherwise, we are the most chaotic democracy in the world, wasting so much of time and money only to help a few ambitious ones amongst us become the part of an ever growing Oligarchic dynasty. The midterm re-elections due to fall of governments, should be stopped altogether and let the president run the show through his governors and bureaucrats till the completion of the term.
A drastic change in our election system is needed to make our democracy really an ideal one for the world to emulate. Not forgetting that despite such scum of politics, the citizens of this land are talented enough to compete with the world’s most advanced and affluent nations and cultures. Therefore it is needed that we start a REVOLUTION. A revolution by which we ought to demand and implement drastic changes in our political ethos and election procedures!
The following points are for consideration:
1. Serving tenure of any minister in any government should not be more than 10 years or two terms. After this, the politician may be kept in the party, only as party officials/workers/advisers but should not hold any portfolio in any government. Surely, in a nation of 1.3 billion there is no lack of talented leaders.
2. While the politician is holding an office in a government and as long as he/she is active in politics, none of his/her kin should be allowed to join or become politically active, lest it becomes a ‘family’ occupation in power.
3. Before any politician is made to enter the sanctum-sanctorum he/she should undergo a strictly conducted course on parliamentary etiquette and behaviour inside the house when in session.
4. Our parliamentarians must be made to wear some kind of respectable and sober uniform before entering the parliament. All kinds of dresses in the name of national or religious garb should not be allowed. None other than the Sikhs and Muslims may be permitted to sport beards. No scrubby unkempt member should be permitted to enter.
5. Talking out of turn without the permission of the Chair, raising one’s voice, walking down to the well of the house, carrying and holding any banner or placard inside the parliament should be very strictly banned. Any one breaking this code should be unceremoniously manhandled by the marshals and taken out of the house or suspended by the Speaker.
6. Second time defaulters of the decorum of the parliament should be banned for the entire session. If such a parliamentarian persists in defaulting he/she should be banned from entering parliament for life.
7. If a party or a group of ministers behave like this, their elected status should be revoked and fresh elections for their vacant posts should be ordered by the CEC only when due in normal course.
8. Independent candidates for any elections mean a very obvious business gamble. A successful independent candidate has a lot of bargaining power with the party which needs his/her support. Only those with wealth can fight and election independently. If this is allowed to prevail, soon the government would be full of independently elected cum rich businessmen or industrialists or mobsters or smugglers and the common janta would be enslaved under their autocratic authority.
9. It is paradoxical that a minister with no knowledge or experience of a particular ministry is made in charge and put as a boss above professional bureaucrats/technocrats. Take railways, defence, health, education, agriculture and science & technology ministries. Are there no suitably qualified politicians? Is it because none of our knowledgeable citizens ever try to get into politics? If they DO, they are NEVER given the charge of these portfolios, why? This trend must change. Most established and advanced nations have this system so that the bureaucrats do not prevail and take advantage of their ignorance.
10. No citizen howsoever eloquent or able to lead a mass of people by his/her muscle and money power, but having a criminal record and who has been subject to a penalty under the law, should be allowed to stand for elections ever.
11. How come that the flouting of black cat commandos as guards has become a status symbol with our ministers? Are they all targets of terrorists? I feel they have this excuse only to protect themselves against those they rubbed the wrong way when they were street fighters and fledgling politicians. Or, are they afraid of dying or getting injured for the sake of nation and being martyred? Their mantle of such protection only makes them more inaccessible to the same people who put them there. Thus isolated they tend lose touch with the needs of the common people. This practice should cease.VIP culture in governance should cease.
12. Is it utterly necessary for us to have students union? They are students, to acquire education NOT political expertise. For our young ones to taste the headiness of politics their participation should be confined only at post graduate levels only. At the tender impressionable age, their exposure to the kind of politicians backed unionism only pollutes them and makes them arrogant, assertive without control and arouses rowdyism. Some of them leave their education to become full time politicians.
13. We, the electorate, get confused in voting for the right candidate at the time of elections. The confusion is caused not only by the ‘quality’ of the candidates, but more due to the ‘quantity’ of candidates fighting the elections. Over the years only quantity has increased not the quality. The quality as of a truly exemplary leader with self example, unselfish, knowledgeable, unblemished character and intense social worker has been diminishing and money-muscle wielding (dadas) have increased. I feel this has been aggravated due to the fact that any person with a following of 5000 can start a new party as per our election norms. Having so many parties in the field also upsets the mathematics of governments to be effective. Coalition type of governance has caused so much corruption and mayhem in our governments in the centre and at state levels. Consequently, the malady of ‘scams’ has come to beset such coalition governance. Therefore, time has come for us, the electorate, to put our foot down and ask for banning of all parties except, as per the political ethos, one party of the Right, one of the Left and one of the moderates, and only one more as the local party at state level. All others must join the right or left or the moderates or have a proven following of at least 10 lakh at state level and 1 crore at all Bharat level.
14. It was generally assumed that the President and his team of Governors and Lt Governors was a parallel governing system available under the constitution in case of collapse of elected governments. Hence, the President and Governors were to be from the administrative or scholarly back grounds not having any political leanings. We had our famous Presidents like Dr S Radhakrishnan and Dr Abdul Kalam, etc., and a number of Governors from Retired IAS or Defence Services or Technocrats or Scholars. But we have now seen that increasingly a Politician loyal to a party is made to fill up these posts. This trend should be banned because the parallel system should be apolitical when the political systems fail. The bureaucrats and others are capable of running the nation expertly till a new political government is formed.
15. Digitalisation of our voting system has not made it tamper proof or invulnerable to hacking. The simple logic is that if an EVM can be opened and reset for a batch of candidates then it can be made to favour a particular one, too. The only way is to make disposable EVMs for each election; the setting of which can be done in front of the representatives (electronically qualified) of the candidates and sealed permanently. The expense of creating such a system would exceed that of using paper ballots. EVMs attached to VVPAT (Voter verifiable paper audit trail) are also capable of being doctored. Therefore, even though our governments boast of this most modern electioneering technique, no other nations have adopted it. Hence, after experimenting with this method even those political parties who had introduced this are demanding return to paper ballots. The used ballot papers can be recycled as any other waste paper. Recycling of disposable EVMs would be more hazardous and expensive.
16. The corruption in politics has gone deep into the system by even manipulating the voters’ lists. Those who are eligible do not find their names but the list has voters who are even minors or are no more alive. The voter’s card now linked with Adhaar Card has failed to get rid of this menace because there is likelihood of bungling at the source that is the election commission’s office, where these lists are printed. A joke is being circulated in the social media about an old man turning up to vote when the official in the booth who recognizes the voter looking at his list asks, “Uncle you did not come with Auntie she has already voted and gone?” The old man replies, “That is the tragedy of my life. She died 15 years ago but even now when she comes and votes I am unable to meet her.”
17. It is a very irksome practice in our democratic set up that there are too frequent elections at many levels of governance. The diversion of government’s machinery, stopping their routine works (including teaching in schools), processions, ‘horse-trading’, noise pollution and citizens’ time spent in standing in queue and voting; all this at great expense, is not a sign of a healthy disciplined democracy.
18. We do not have dearth of citizens aiming to come and rise in politics. And the election is the only means that helps them to come into active participation. But it is seen that our senior and older politicians, in order to make sure that they win another time, manage to get tickets from 2 or even 3 constituencies. Once they win from all these constituencies the politician then chooses which to retain and which one to ‘dump’. The latter lot then is cheated of their choice and a re-election is ordered costing the tax payer. This trickery must be banned.
Much more can be added to this list of reforms. It is requested that readers may add and help form a Peoples’ Front to take up this issue on the national level. If there is already an organisation taking up this issue then they may please consider this as my humble input too. 2019 elections should be a reformed one.