electoral reform

Topics: Elections, Voting system, Election Pages: 6 (1203 words) Published: March 8, 2014
Orissa Review * January - 2006

Need for Electoral Reforms
Siddhartha Dash

Elections are the life and blood of modern
democracies. The health and vitality of
parliamentary democracy is sustained by ensuring
free, fair and peaceful elections where the verdict
of the people finds full expression. The Indian
electoral system was free from any major flaw till
the fourth general elections in 1967. The distortions
in its working appeared, for the first time, in the
fifth general elections, 1971 and multiplied in the
successive elections, especially those held in the
eighties and thereafter.

Money power has played decisive role in
elections in the past and continues to do so with
greater force today. Suggestion with regard to
putting curb on money power is that of state
funding. This practice of state funding for political
parties to reimburse their poll expenses is
prevalent in some countries like Germany,
France, Israel, Canada, Japan, USA etc. In this
system, political parties polling a minimum
percentage of votes are entitled to subsidy by the
state.

The Tarkunde Committee Report of 1975,
the Goswami Committee Report of 1990, the
Election Commission s Recommendations in
1998 and Indrajit Gupta Committee Report of
1998 produced comprehensive set of
recommendations regarding electoral reforms. A
few reforms have been implemented like the voting
age has been lowered from 21 years to 18 years;
increase in the amount of security deposit from
Rs.500 to Rs.10,000 for general constituencies
and Rs.250 to Rs.5,000 for reserved
constituencies; introduction of electronic voting
machine; and making obligatory for candidates
for elections to the Lok Sabha and State
Assemblies to declare their criminal background,
educational qualifications and economic status at
the time of filing nomination papers. But a lot has
to be done.

Since winning election has become an end
in itself, in addition to money power, muscle power
has also become an important factor. This is done
in two ways: a) by preventing the voters of weaker
sections of society on their way to polling stations
for casting their ballots; and b) by forcibly
capturing polling booths for marking and inserting
ballot papers in the ballot box of the candidate of
choice. The most significant outcome of the use
of muscle power in elections has been that many
local muscle men, and criminals whose services
were earlier sought for extortion or votegatherings are now directly entering the fray and are elected in the process. In order to deter the
criminal elements entering the electoral field, law
should make it mandatory for a person convicted
by a court of law and sentenced to imprisonment
for six months or more to be debarred from
50

Orissa Review * January - 2006

votes polled in this category is more than 50
percent of the total votes polled, all candidates
should be debarred from contesting elections for
at least six years by the Election Commission and
the election be declared void. The election should
then be re-conducted with fresh candidates.

contesting polls for a period of the sentence
imposed and an additional period of six years.
Any person who is accused of any offence
punishable with imprisonment for five years or
more should be disqualified, even when her/his
trial is pending provided that the competent court
of law has taken cognizance of the offence and
framed the charges against him.

Besides making elections clean, there is
utmost necessity of prescribing a maximum age
limit and minimum academic qualifications for the
candidates. Those want to compete in the
elections should be made to sit in a test of
knowledge of the Constitution, country s
economy, freedom struggle and geography. The
Election Commission of India should conduct this
test. Certain minimum marks in these subjects
should be fixed to qualify for becoming a politician.
Psychological tests should also be...
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