Will The Next Assembly Elections Be Clean?
By Ashutosh Pandey:
Elections in world’s largest democracy have always been marred by controversies. In earlier times, when ballot paper was used for casting the votes, political parties always indulged in blame game for adopting unethical practices against each other. However, all that ended when T.N. Seshan entered the scene. He implemented various reforms and gave the office of Election Commission the much deserved prestige and authenticity.
And, unlike other Government Departments, it is a pleasure to see that the Election Commission has continued with the reforms. In the recently concluded Bihar assembly elections, Election Commission received much kudos for conducting elections in a very efficient and decent manner. There was no poll related violence, a regular feature of Bihar elections earlier.
In Bihar, Election Commission of India (ECI) even undertook the awareness programme so as to educate the voters about the importance of casting votes. This deserves accolades and make us feel proud that we have such a powerful and efficient body to conduct and monitor elections in this most vibrant democracy of the world.
In the upcoming assembly elections for five states, ECI has introduced several reforms in order to conduct polls in ideal circumstances. The reforms were announced in Chennai at the 7th national conference on electoral and political reforms. However, we cannot say that these reforms are new. In fact, the guidelines were introduced in the recently concluded Bihar assembly elections and the results were for all to see. So, ECI has enthusiastically decided to extend these measures to the upcoming assembly elections in the five states.
Actually, now it becomes the duty of the citizens like us to carry forward these reforms and keep a strict eye on their violation. People in India depend too much on Governments doing all the work for them. We must get rid of this mindset and report all the violations that are against established norms in any field. It will bring in the results sooner than we expect.
Now, let us continue with the newly introduced guidelines. The new guidelines introduced by the ECI are aimed at curbing money power and liquor abuse which is a common characteristic of any election in our country. ECI is all excited by the successful implementation of these guidelines in Bihar elections and hopes that the entry of black money in the elections would be curtailed substantially.
For this, ECI will identify the Expenditure Sensitive Constituencies (ESCs) and will associate with Income Tax Investigation Directorate for keeping a vigil over movement of illicit cash during the election process. Now, these seem to be extremely effective guidelines, no doubt, but only their proper implementation will bring in the desired results. Further, the candidates contesting the elections will have to open a separate bank account for election expense and will be able to pay only through cheque for all the expenses incurred in the election. This is a highly welcome step as candidates often abused the expenditure related norms.
To ensure that the implementation is carried out effectively, ECI will also advise all the political parties to avoid all cash transactions till the elections are over. Further, a toll-free number will work for 24×7 in all the districts so that people can lodge their complaints regarding abuse of the election norms. Individuals can also lodge complaints against violation of expenditure guidelines by the contesting candidates.
Now, all these preventive measures introduced by ECI are highly effective and set to benefit people in general. However, we must know that no government effort can be successful unless the people do not involve themselves into it. So, we all must be responsive towards our duty and report all the election related violations by the contesting candidates and political parties. Remember, it’s our country and we cannot let some people play with its integrity and sovereignty.
I am sure that by now people who were confused by the title of this article must have understood what I mean by “clean” elections. I want elections to be clean from money and liquor power. We all want that, don’t we?
The writer is a contributor at Youth Ki Awaaz and is also associated with the Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR).