Voter Registration – Flaws and Remedies

The first phase of polling has come to an end. Times of India and other newspapers carried stories of voters being turned away from the polling booths though they had genuine photo identity cards. The people who could not vote are neither hard-core criminals in prison nor are they aliens from Mars. They are ordinary citizens of this country and yet they were denied their inalienable right to vote. The reason – their name did not figure in the voters list!

Wrong Diagnosis; Inadequate Treatment

The recent sting operations exposing sleaze of MPs certainly stirred the nation. These exposés pose a formidable challenge to the legitimacy of our political system. But the Government’s frenetic efforts to provide state funding for elections, is a classic prescription of placebos for a deep-rooted political malaise.  Public funding in itself, like placebos or vitamins, is harmless, even desirable. But this knee-jerk response does not address the underlying crisis. Two issues need elaboration.

Honesty and Survival in Politics

Now that some of the dust raised by the Supreme Court judgment on dissolution of Bihar Assembly has settled, the time has come for sober, non-partisan reflection. Clearly, the Court verdict is an indictment of the various institutions whose failure to protect democratic values has been palpable. The Court’s williness to bark and refusal to bite also expose the limitations of judicial review in a rapidly changing situation on matters which are intensely political.

Election Commission and Electoral Reforms

On July 30, the Election Commission (EC) sent several proposals for electoral reforms to the Prime Minister, Dr.Manmohan Singh. The EC sent a total of 22 proposals. It is important for all thinking citizens to be informed of these proposals, and to participate in the public debate on the subject.

Democracy and Voter Registration

The world’s largest democracy today is facing a peculiar problem. There is great uncertainty that has come to mark the timing of the elections in India. Everyone including the Election Commission is only talking in terms of probable dates of elections. This uncertainty is not due to the indecision on the part of the party leaders regarding the dissolution of legislatures. Rather, the uncertainty of the timing of elections is because no one in India exactly knows as to when we would have a complete updated electoral list of all the constituencies in the country.

Limit Contest to One Seat, or Make Them Pay

dir="ltr">Under the current law a candidate can contest from two constituencies, but has to vacate one of the seats within ten days - necessitating a by-election. The Election Commission’s (EC) proposal to bar a candidate from contesting in more than one constituency, or seek reimbursement of the expenditure for holding the by-election is perfectly reasonable and fair.

The merit of this proposal could be enhanced by not limiting it to only vacation of a seat upon being elected to two seats in the same House but extending it to occasions when:



Needed : Bold Reform, Not Legal Nitpicking


Political Rigidities and Promise of Change

dir="ltr">After days of agonizing suspense, high drama and emotions, a new Union Council of Ministers took office under Dr Manmohan Singh’s stewardship.  The sage decision of Mrs Sonia Gandhi to stand aside has enhanced her personal prestige, helped the Congress party claim the high moral ground and prevented potentially disastrous national strife and polarization.

Political ‘Entrepreneurs’ and Crisis of Legitimacy

dir="ltr">This is the first general election in which disclosure of financial details of all candidates, their spouses and dependents is mandatory, as a necessary part of the nomination. However, the media are regaling us with stories of absurd ‘disclosures’ by may candidates, concealing much more than they reveal, and making amusing reading in some cases. Why is this so?

Changing Players – Unchanging Rules of the Game

dir="ltr">With elections over in the four Hindi-speaking states, curtains have been drawn on one great media entertainment for the time being. The media have always treated our elections as a great game. The use of the expression “semifinal” is symbolic. But one thing is certain. There is no ‘semifinal’ or ‘final’ in a democracy. This is a continuing saga which will never attain finality, and history will never end.