By Ankit Jain:
The so-called 2nd war of Indian Independence has seen much unveiling and revealing, yet continues to stay in the headlines. Starting with the “India against Corruption” movement to advocating the Jan Lokpal Bill, this fight had taken Land Bill Reforms and now the Electoral System Reform under itself. Here is an analysis of our present electoral system, and why the reform is much needed.
150 MPs out of the 541 elected MPs in the 2009 general elections have criminal records (past or present; cases undergoing hearings in different courts), 72 of which have been charged of serious crimes including murder, rape, etc. The breakup involves members from all parties in almost the same proportion as the number of seats of that party. Thus, it shows that this trend spreads across all states, and in all political parties. Then why do we elect them? The answer to this lies in the fact that more than half the population votes for the party, and not the candidate. Those are the people who have no other option but to select the criminal failing which their business, their family or they themselves would be under threat. So, the problem comes to why political parties field such candidates in the elections? Can’t there be any law to prevent this? Yes, there can be! But how will the bill get passed with 1/3rd of our lawmakers being criminals?
Corruption is a word that has blown away the country for the past few months. 4 MPs are in jails, while there are many others who have simply used their powers to avoid jail. Cases in courts are prolonging, public money being wasted on investigations which are compelled to yield decisions in favor of the corrupt. Why is it allowed? Can’t we ask them to resign till they get themselves a clean chit?
Another reason why our electoral system is in jeopardy Â is the provision for contesting another election while holding the post of an MP/MLA. The present rules allow a sitting MLA to contest the election for Lok Sabha while still clinging to his MLA seat. In case he gets elected as an MP, he can empty the MLA seat for which there should be re-election within 6 months of the date of resignation. This causes heavy disruption in the governance & development of the constituency. Why should someone be allowed to contest for another seat whilst sitting on one?
Another addition to this is the provision to contest elections from more than 1 constituency simultaneously, the way Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav did in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections (he contested from Saran and Patliputra). He eventually won only from Saran. Had he emerged as the winning candidate in both the constituencies, he would have the option to choose the one constituency which he would like to represent; thus calling for a re-election in the other. Does this system not give political leaders a chance to play with the citizens’ time and money? Why should a candidate be allowed to contest from 2 different places, and later on decide which one he wants?
One provision is that of being made a minister even when a leader is not a sitting MP/MLA. The person, then, has to find himself a seat in the assembly 6 months from the day he takes the oath to the office of minister. This again causes a long series of by-elections which does no good to the people. Recent examples are those of Mr. Arjun Munda and Ms. Mamata Banerjee becoming the Chief Ministers of Jharkhand and West Bengal respectively. Both of them were MPs when they took oath as the CM. They resigned from their respective Lok Sabha seats. Sitting MLAs (one each from both states; obviously from their own political parties) resigned as well so that they could contest from their constituencies. Thus there have been by-elections in 4 different constituencies, 2 of LokSabha and 2 of VidhanSabhas. In Mamata Banerjee’s case, she did not contest for any seat in the State Assembly Elections held in May but fielded her close confidante Subrata Bakshi. If her party won, which it eventually did, Subrata Bakshi would step down to vacate the seat for Mamata Banerjee. A by-election held recently in that constituency ensured that Mamata Banerjee made her place in the State Legislative Assembly and Subrata Bakshi was fielded for the Lok Sabha seat which was emptied by Mamata Banerjee. He won it by a huge margin. However, if Mamata had failed to find herself a seat in the state assembly (the case that happened with previous Jharkhand CM Mr. Shibu Soren), she doesn’t lose her MP seat, because it is the state assembly by-election which happens first and then the Lok Sabha by-election. Why should this merry-go-round be allowed when it causes such situations as the assembly seat lying vacant for 6 months and that of other by-elections to arise? The overall losses that the country incurs from these repeated by-polls has been discussed here.
Thus, it is now up to us if we want a good robust electoral system, or are we happily waiting for yet another by-election.