Electoral Reforms In India – Indian Polity
India is the largest democracy in the world. Elections are the foremost integral and important a part of politics during a democratic system of governance. True democracy can function only elections to the offices of power are held during a free and fair manner. The issue of electoral reforms may be a vital and often-heard topic in Indian Polity.
Electoral Reforms in India Introduction
It is generally accepted that while the primary three general elections were held during a free and fair manner, a plummeting of standards started during the fourth general elections in 1967. Many consider the voting system within the country because the basis of political corruption. In the next sections, we will talk about the challenges in this regard, and some of the previous attempts at electoral reform.
Issues in Electoral Politics in India
There are many issues plaguing the electoral process in India. Some of the most prominent ones are mentioned below.
In every constituency, candidates have to spend crores of rupees for campaigning, publicity, etc. Most candidates far exceed the permissible limit of expenses.
In certain parts of the country, there are widespread reports of illegal and untoward incidents during polling like the utilization of violence, intimidation, booth capturing, etc.
Criminalisation of Politics and Politicization of Criminals
Criminals enter into politics and make sure that money and muscle power wins them elections, in order that the cases against them aren't proceeded with. Political parties also are happy as long as they need winnable candidates. Political parties field criminals in elections for funds and reciprocally provide them with political patronage and protection.
Misuse of Government Machinery
There is a general opinion that the party in power uses government machinery like using government vehicles for canvassing, advertisements at the value of the exchequer, disbursements out of the discretionary funds at the disposal of the ministers, and other such means to enhance the probabilities of their candidates winning.
Non-serious Independent candidates
Serious candidates float non-serious candidates in elections to chop an honest portion of the votes that might otherwise have gone to rival candidates.
There are issues of certain caste groups lending strong support to particular political parties. Thus, political parties make offers to convert different caste groups, and caste groups also attempt to pressurize parties to supply tickets for his or her members‘ elections. Voting on caste lines is prevalent in the country and this is a serious blotch on democracy and equality. This also creates rifts in the country.
Communal polarization poses a significant threat to the Indian political ethos of pluralism, parliamentarianism, secularism and federalism. Read more about Communalism in the linked article.
Lack of Moral Values in Politics
The corrupt politicians in India has led to politics becoming a business. People enter the political arena for making money and retaining their money and power. There are only a few leaders who enter politics to form a difference within the lives of their people. The Gandhi ji values of service and sacrifice are missing from the Indian political scene.
Electoral Reforms Undertaken
Electoral reforms undertaken by authorities are often broadly divided into two categories: pre-2000 and post-2000. Both of these are discussed in the section below:
Electoral Reforms Pre-2000
- Reducing of Voting Age: The 61st Amendment Act to the Constitution reduced the minimum age for voting from 21 to 18 years. (read about important amendments in the Indian Constitution, in the linked article.)
- Deputation to Election Commission: All personnel working in preparing, revising and correcting the electoral rolls for elections shall be considered to get on deputation to the EC for the amount of such employment, and that they shall be superintended by the EC.
- Increase within the number of proposers and therefore the security deposit: the amount of electors required to sign as proposers within the nomination papers for elections to the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislative Councils has been raised to 10% of the electors of the constituency or ten such electors, whichever is a smaller amount chiefly to stop frivolous candidates. The security deposit has also been hiked to stop non-serious candidates.
- Electronic Voting Machine (EVMs): First introduced in 1998 during the state elections of Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, EVMs are used widely now as they are fool-proof, efficient and a better option in terms of the environment.
- Debarment on conviction for violating the National Honours Act, 1971: This shall lead to disqualification of the person for 6 years from contesting to the Parliament and the state legislatures.
- Restriction on contesting from quite 2 constituencies: A candidate cannot contest from quite 2 constituencies.
- Demise of a contesting candidate: Previously, the election was countermanded on the demise of a contesting candidate. In the future, no election are going to be countermanded on the death of a contesting candidate. If the deceased candidate, however, was found out by a recognized national or state party, then the party concerned are going to be given an choice to nominate another candidate within 7 days of the difficulty of a notice thereto effect to the party concerned by the committee .
- It is prohibited by law to travel to or near a booth bearing arms. This is punishable by imprisonment for up to 2 years.
- On poll days, employees of organisations get a paid holiday and violation of this is often punishable by a fine.
- Restriction on sale of liquor: No liquor or other intoxicants shall be sold or given or distributed at any shop, eating place, or any other place, whether private or public, within a polling area during the amount of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the conclusion of poll.
- Time limit for bye-elections: Bye-elections to any House of Parliament or a State Legislature will now be held within six months of the occurrence of the vacancy therein House. (Read about Parliament & State Legislature in the linked article.)
- The period of campaigning has been reduced.
Electoral Reforms Post 2000
The electoral reforms target the election process within the country. The list of correspondent electoral reforms are given below:
1. Ceiling on election expenditure: at the present , there's no limit on the quantity a political party can spend in an election or on a candidate. Still, the Commission has put a cap on individual candidates’ spending. For the Lok Sabha elections, it is Rs. 50 – 70 lakh (depending on the state they're contesting the Lok Sabha seat from), and Rs. 20 – 28 lakh for an assembly election.
2. Restriction on exit polls: The EC issued a statement before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections saying that exit poll results could be broadcast only after the final phase of the elections were over. This was done to avoid prospective voters being misguided or prejudiced in any manner.
3. Voting through postal ballot: In 2013, the EC decided to expand the ambit of postal ballot voting within the country. Previously, only Indian staff in missions abroad and defence personnel during a limited way, could vote via postal ballots. Now, there are 6 categories of voters who can use the postal ballot: service voters; special voters; wives of service voters and special voters; voters subjected to preventive detention; voters on election duty and Notified voters.
4. Awareness Creation: the govt decided to watch January 25th as ‘National Voters Day’ to mark the EC’s founding day. Read more on the National Voters’ Day here.
5. Political parties need to report any contribution in excess of Rs 20000 to the EC for claiming income tax benefit.
6. Declaring of criminal antecedents, assets, etc. by the candidates is required and declaring false information within the affidavit is now an electoral offence punishable with imprisonment up to six months or fine or both.