Electoral Reforms: An Urgent Need for the Safeguard of our Democratic Principles

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According to me, Our Indian society requires quite a few changes in order to uplift ourselves and become a more prosperous and successful state with important principles like equality and fraternity in its existence. Historically, India has been susceptible to various problems which have fragmented our country as it divides our people along the lines of their religion, caste, region or gender.

However if there was one change that I could make for the good of our society, it would definitely be a change in the way our elections take place. Yes, this is also know as Election Reforms. In the current scenario, there has been a lot of debating nationally and even internationally on whether our elections are just and fair, as elections form one of the most important constitutional element of a democracy. In recent times, the topic of simultaneous elections is being discussed widely with many countrymen and women weighting its advantages and consequences on our society.

However, I strongly believe that the most important electoral reform that needs urgent notice and working towards it are the way in which election campaigns are conducted. Even well aware Citizens often target politicians for the corruption in our country and their misuse of power and money as their net worth rise when they get elected for their terms. This has become so rampant that it has become a crucial component of elections where only people with high financial wealth, are able to get tickets to stand as candidates for elections. The person’s ability and desire to serve the public isn’t the priority anymore in our society. It’s his/her financial wealth which takes command on the election as the campaign becomes popular when lots of money in injected in the campaign, sometimes even bribing the  poor into selling their votes or threatening the vulnerable classes with severe consequences.

Elections are the very first activity that takes place in a democratic set up. It’s one of the first stages where the public gets to choose their representatives. Hence I consider this so important because prevention is always better than cure. Rather then bringing law breaking or politically profit seeking candidates to power. The election commission should lay down strong guidelines and mandatory regulations for conducting election campaigns.

It seems rather absurd that everyone including the Election Commission knows that the limitations of the expenditures fixed for elections is just enough to cover up the small proportion of actual expenses. There are no means by which the Election Commission could check the spending of funds done by the candidates and political parties during these elections. During the period of elections, the Central and State Governments initiate the advertisement on the pretense of providing information to the public. The disbursement incurred on these is recovered from public exchequer. This very fact gives the government which is in power an advantage over the others.

The political advertisements and paid new have risen rapidly in the national and regional media. The Election Commission has laid down the moral of the code of conduct for the the political parties and even its candidates. But unfortunately, the bitter truth is that these rules are openly flouted and never abided. The main issue here is definitely not the lack of laws, but their strict execution and implementation.

However, gradually politics has become a game of opportunism and fast corruption. Mostly it is the political parties that are only interested in coming to power. Getting voted into power has become the end in itself and not a means to do good for a greater mass of people. Every party adopts different means to come to the power. Some try to influence the people through caste politics while others through the so called secular means. A third would try to appeal to the religious sentiments of the people.

India is the largest democracy in the world and our political system is a multiparty system. A party or a coalition winning a majority forms the government. A simple enough proposition’, but in reality it has proved to be hopelessly idealistic. The political system has become unstable because of the mushrooming of parties. Ideology has been replaced by caste and religion in many parties. Hence democracy is reduced to rule by bigotry, hatred, and fanaticism by caste-based groups. Nearly 30 parties are representing our Parliament. This has made Parliament more diverse and at times add to the chaos, particularly when regional issues rise to the fore as they did over Telangana. State rivalries also get enhanced play as national parties have no option but to cater to such demands. The idea of having a democracy in which everybody is equal is obviously unworkable in a country where there is no equality in any form or shape socially, economically or politically. Also many of our legislators have criminal records. The people who make the laws themselves break them. Such a political system coexists oddly with an economy that is slowly but definitely responding to global changes. Moreover there is a tendency of ‘dynasty rule’ in our democracy. This tendency has a gloomy prospect for the democratic way of life. The state of affairs in all political parties is equally bad. Be it Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa or Punjab, the dynastic rule within democracy has assumed alarming proportions.

The elections have become synonymous with corruption, communalism, violence and power. The criminalization of politics has led to the misuse of money and power. It is tough to expect fair and just decisions when the law breakers have become the law makers. The inclusion of anti-social elements in the legislative assemblies have diluted the essence of democracy and led to a feeble electoral system. The Section 8 of Representation of People Act strongly advocates for the disqualification of candidates with criminal background. But as per the Section 8, a person is disqualified from elections only on conviction by a court of law. The Election Commission has time and again proposed the amendment of this law to provide that any person who is accused of a punishable offence by imprisonment for 5 years or more should be disqualified from contesting in elections.

The Election Commission strongly advocates for the fact that this will play an important role in cleaning up the Indian political system. Nearly 5 years back,  the honorable Supreme Court gave a ruling that the MPs and MLAs who were convicted of serious crimes be barred from contesting elections. But the implementation of this clause has not been strictly adhered to in the Indian elections. The opponents of this law have been firm on the opinion that a person is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty by court of law.

A movement on the scale of our freedom struggle needs to be initiated. The aim of the movement should be to peacefully spread awareness about the need for reform of our political system and its misuse by some people. In this context we may refer to the historic judge given by the honourable Supreme Court following an appeal by an NGO. It ruled that every candidate contesting the election at the Central, State and Municipal levels should declare his criminal records , financial records and educational qualifications. It is wrong to say that the people have lost faith in the democratic system, as hope still exists. This is evident from the fact that a sizeable majority of the voters usually turn up for casting their ballots during the elections. However, if a democracy is to be totally successful, the electorate needs to be literate, politically conscious and well aware of its privileges and rights. Hence the illiterate masses of India should be given education so that they will be able to  judiciously exercise their franchise. Education reforms require immediate attention from the government as it forms the base of the people’s opinion, without being educated, this public cannot choose a candidate that would be right for them and not repressive or power showering dominance.

The USA, Germany, Japan and Britain are successful democratic countries and have progressed in every sphere because the masses are literate. The politicians should respect this true spirit of democracy by refraining from various unethical practices like corruption, caste and communal politics. The citizens should elect leaders with a strong sense of integrity and good moral values. It should be a peaceful but gradual change. People should not allow communalism, casteism,  separatism, terrorism and many more illegitimate practises to raise their heads. Citizens should not be intimidated by anyone in this respect. Changes should come through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. Today’s talented and upright youngsters should join politics to improve the present political scenario. This would infuse new blood into our political system and would rejuvenate it with new and fresh perspectives. Youngsters nowadays want to be an Engineer, Doctor, Bureaucrat, Lawyer, but not many want to get into politics and bring positive changes through it, because politics has gotten associated with dirty tricks and false promises. An aware youth of this nation, will create a better society with true democratic spirit which will march towards a better future.

Over the years, the Election Commission has conducted a number of reforms which I find commendable to strengthen Indian democracy and conduct free and fair elections. However, there is still a lot that can be done. The EC needs to be given with more power and authority. It should be given the power to penalize the politicians and political parties who disobey the electoral laws. The political parties need to show their will to abide by the reforms. It is high time now that the citizens of our country rise above the issues of religion, caste and community, vote on the basis of their convictions. The citizens must be aware of their rights and duties towards the nation. An enlightened voter is the most crucial component of a successful democracy. All these reforms will go a long way towards making India a democracy in its true sense and automatically uplifting our society as I believe this issue to be the root cause of all other problems. Once the roots are treated, our nation will see a spurt of growth.

Changes should and must come through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. Today’s talented youth should be politically educated and aware of their own rights and duties towards the state, so that they can become effective leaders of tomorrow.

Harsh Chauhan, St. Xaviers College, Mumbai – SYBA, Winner of the Essay competition for month of August

Bio – I am a second year student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Politcal Science, History and sociology. I also have a keen interest in applied psychology, developmental economics and Geopolitical scenarios in the International relations of various countries. I have always been a keen reader but I have just begun writing as I felt the want to express myself and my thoughts with others.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Beautifully written as well as organised, it’s certainly true that our roots need to be focused on first rather than the branches!

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  3. For the topic you have chosen it can only be made crudely relevant to the theme.
    Assuming you are not part of govt, electoral reform – your theme about the “process”. Addressing a specific issue plaguing the society could have been a topic. More focus on the process, are you an advocate of behaviouralism?
    It is not about process that makes a scheme or an initiative great, it is the implementation and how best it is executed to address an issue.
    Electoral Reforms by itself can bring uplift the society? I wonder how.
    Is there anything for a common man/woman to do something about the issue unilaterally? nothing!
    Although the information is very good, for a suggestion to ARC but hardly did any justice to the theme.
    Good Luck.

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