Vox Populi, Vox Dei !

The recent March 13 Supreme Court judgment on disclosure of candidate details raised several interesting questions. Many well-meaning and concerned citizens are asking: Will we really get information on candidates? Don’t disclosures disqualify candidates? Does it not affect the candidates’ privacy? Don’t people know the antecedents of candidates anyway? Is it enough to cleanse elections? What can people do now? etc. If we have to proceed further in the cause of democratic reforms, we need to find honest and sensible answers to these questions.

The Battle has just Begun

The Supreme Court verdict of March 13 reiterating the fundamental right of voters to know about candidates is a significant milestone in the evolution of our democracy. First, it has upheld constitutionalism and strengthened our faith in the institutional vitality and corrective mechanisms in our republic. Second, it provides a priceless opportunity for parties to break out of the shackles of criminal elements and moneybags at the constituency level. Politics as big business, power at any cost, and public office for private gain will simply not do.

Politicians and Public – Dangerous Standoff

Democracy is about peaceful change. If that hope of peaceful transformation is extinguished, all that is left is anarchy or violent upheavals. President Abdul Kalam’s courageous act in returning the patently unconstitutional Representation of the People (Amendment) Ordinance 2002 for the reconsideration of the Council of Ministers is a great morale booster for all those who seek peaceful change. This act of diligence and statesmanship helps uphold the letter and spirit our Constitution as few official actions have done in recent times.

Speak Now, Or

If we keep quiet now, the politicians of the country will soon enact a law to deny us the fundamental Right to Information about our prospective candidates.  And we will have only ourselves to blame. Today it is our Right to know, tomorrow it could be our liberty. If murderers and rapists and dacoits are not disqualified, the worst of things becomes possible.

Unfounded Fears of Disqualification

We will disclose the assets of only the winning candidates and that too, to the presiding officer of the House

Only the Parliament has the right to legislate.” – Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, Congress (I);

Are we supposed to disclose even our electricity and telephone dues and let an ordinary Revenue official have the right to disqualify our nomination?” – an indignant Mr. Arun Jaitley, BJP official spokesperson.

Election Fervour or Fever?

In India, we have three seasons:  the festival season, cricket and then the election season.  Of these, the schedule for festivals and cricket tourneys appears to have at least some regularity and order.  After all, it is not too difficult to figure out on which date the Ganesh Puja falls or when an India vs. Pakistan match is, in a given year.  But speaking of the Indian election season, it could be upon us like a bin bulaye mehmaan.

Inadequate Women’s Representation? A win-win Solution…

Over the past five decades, the representational base of our legislatures has definitely broadened.  Unfortunately, this has not translated into more number of women as MLAs or MPs.  The representation of women in Lok Sabha has remained more or less stagnant at a very low 9% over the years.

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