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Electoral Reforms

Submitted by on February 24, 2007 – 5:45 pm

The news item (click on the title of this write-up to see that) is indeed heartening: Law Ministry is pushing for poll reforms. The world’s largest democracy – as India is – needs more teeth so as to be optimally effective. The vital player of the democracy – the voter- is left high and dry because the politicians of today have exploited the situation and either you vote or not, they are going to rule over you! What we need today most are:

1.Criminals should not be able to gain entry into electoral politics. Thus the move to debar charge-sheeted persons to contest is a welcome move.
2.The prrovision for ‘negative voting’ so that a ‘bad’ person could be precluded from getting elected.
3.Vote to ‘recall’.
4.Anti-defection law should be made much more stringent.
5.Post-poll alliances should be governed by certain rules. Similarly there could be many more reforms to sharpen our electoral system.
Wheras electoral reforms are the need of the hour, here is a write-up by noted commentator Khushwant Singh. He has aptly described the ground realities- taking Punjab as an example – as far as our democracy is concerned. And his summation of the facts is real and this is what is happening actually. As it reads:

All in the name of elections

IN a few days three states will go to the polls. Of the three, the outcome of one which may indicate what the people think about the performance of the Sonia Gandhi-Manmohan Singh Government in the Centre will be Punjab.

It is a border state which reacts sharply to changes in India-Pakistan equations. It has seen three wars fought in its territory. It has India’s third largest religious minority, the Sikhs, in majority. The outcome will indicate whether or not the Central Government policies are, or are not, even-handed in its treatment of other minorities, the Muslims and Christians.

Punjab remains the most go-ahead and the richest agricultural state of the Union. The results will indicate whether or not its farmers are, or are not, satisfied with what the state government is doing for them. Other issues like the future of Chandigarh and distribution of river waters will be shelved for the time being. The demand for Khalistan is dead. So is militant activity perpetrated in its name. Relations with Pakistan have never been better. The Sikhs have never had it so good as they have today. Credit for these achievements go to the Congress.
The main contenders for power are the same: on the one side the Congress is led by Captain Amarinder Singh, erstwhile Maharaja of Patiala, on the other the Akali-BJP combine is led by Parkash Singh Badal, head of Punjab’s wealthiest family owning vast tracts of farm lands and real estate.

Amarinder Singh has the state’s resources behind him. Badal controls the mini empire of Sikh temples managed by the SGPC and thousands of schools, colleges and hospitals run by it.
From what one can gauge from full-page advertisements in Punjab papers launched by both adversaries, money will be no problem for either party: it will flow like the waters of the Sutlej and the Beas. So will desi sharaab. Punjab retains its position as the number one state in the consumption of liquor and drugs.

So far only the names of candidates have been announced. They follow the old feudal pattern: sons, sons-in-law, nephews and other relations come first, next come caste affiliations: Jats, Khatris, Mazhabis (Dalit) for reserved seats. In larger cities like Ludhiana, Amritsar and Jalandhar, they are from the rich creamy layer. Elections need money; they have it.
Starry-eyed youngsters who dream of modernising India by ridding it of its pseudo-religious clap-trap do not appear in the lists of aspirants. For them no matter who wins or loses, it will be as the French put it: plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose (the more it changes, the more it remains the same thing).

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