Electoral reforms

By Radharao Gracias
21 September 2012 23:07 IST

The Constitution of India was painstakingly framed by men born as British subjects and brought up with a sense of honour, a dose of discipline British style. And so, were most of the laws, framed by men of stature and vision. Our election laws were modeled on British laws, a natural consequence of the west minister model. As it happens, within decades after independence we have reverted to ourselves, a selfish characterless and dishonest people waiting for any opportunity to lay hands on what does not belong to us.

Our ingenuity to bend and break the election law is unparalleled. The Representation of People’s Act has become a cipher and needs to be overhauled to overcome the deficiencies.

Currently, ideology and political parties have lost significance as individuals move from party to party at the drop of a hat. I would therefore suggest some changes:

a) Register of members : Every political party must maintain a register of its members as per constituency and the same must be submitted to the Election Commission at prescribed periods. The Election Commission shall publish in the gazette the names of members of all political parties, from time to time.

b) Supervised Elections : Elections to the governing board of a political party shall be held under the supervision of the Election Commission. No person shall be entitled to be on the governing board for more than fixed number of terms.

c) Primary elections : Every party candidate to contest assembly/parliament elections shall be selected through a process of primary elections where eligible registered members of the political party in a constituency shall vote to nominate the candidate.

d) Eligibility : No member of a political party shall be eligible to contest for party ticket or vote at the primary elections unless one has been member of the political party for a minimum period of three years. Thus, the present practice of individual seeking ticket from different parties at the same time shall be dead.

e) Independents : No person who has been a member of a political party shall be eligible to contest elections as an independent unless a period of three years has lapsed after he has ceased to be member of that party. Thus candidates failing to get nomination at the primaries will be barred from rebelling against the party.

f) Withdrawal :  No candidate fielded by a political party shall be eligible to withdraw from the contest unless the withdrawal form is countersigned by the party. It happened to Congress in Cortalim this year and to BJP in Loutolim in an earlier election.

g) Reject candidates: Today, the general tendency of some voters is to avoid voting on the ground that none of the candidates deserve a vote. There must therefore be on every ballot a slot reserved, to enable the voters to reject all the candidates. All candidates who get votes less than the “rejected” slot shall automatically be barred from contesting prescribed number of elections.

h) Compulsory voting: Voting must be made compulsory, failure to vote inviting a penalty. Once the ‘rejected’ slot is available on the ballot no voter will have the excuse, to avoid coming to the polling booth. Compulsory voting would also reduce money power in elections as the practice of paying and collecting EPIC cards of voters known to support the opponent, to prevent them from casting a vote, will come to an end.

i) No Recall: Recall is a logistically tedious process which would require a certain percentage of voters to sign a petition for recall and the Election Commission will have to verify the signatures and resolve disputes which will arise. The next stage would be to conduct a recall election if the petition is in order. If the member is indeed recalled, then a fresh election will have to be conducted to fill the vacancy. The entire process will probably take the remainder of the term of five years and the newly elected legislator may not get an opportunity to represent the voters.

Moreover, the right to recall is inbuilt in the existing Representation of People’s Act, in so far as every member has to seek re elections at intervals of not more than five years. And this is nothing but recall. What does the record show? Every member accused of the most heinous crime is re elected several times over by the same voters. So how will an earlier recall help?

j) Federal Parties: The law must permit the formation of federal parties by several regional parties coming together and contesting elections to parliament as a single political party. Regional parties must then be barred from contesting to parliament but shall be entitled to maintain their identity and contest at the State level. Thus for instance, a party say the Indian Federal Party could have the DMK, NCP, Telegu Desam, BJD as the federating parties and still function at the State level. This would enable the emergence of three or four ideology based national parties and avoid the sort of blackmail by regional parties that has currently become the rule.

The debate on amendments to the election law needs to begin and culminate in a dramatic change in the law for Indian Democracy to be effective.

Blogger's Profile

Radharao Gracias

Radharao F.Gracias is a senior Trial Court lawyer and ex President of the South Goa Advocates Association. He is also former independent MLA of Goa. He has been an activist on issues related to Goa for more than three decades.

Drop a comment

Enter The Code Displayed hereRefresh Image


Previous Comments

SUCH REFORMS ARE FINE AND OF COURSE WELCOME. BUT WHAT ABOUT REGISTRATIONS OF MIGRANT VOTERS WHO VOTE IN GOA AS WELL AS THEIR HOME TOWN? ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS SWEAR AND AFFIDAVIT , THEN VOTE FOR MONEY. THAT LEAVES GOENKAR SWEARING FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

IN INDIA THE SO CALLED AFFIDAVIT (EFFY-DEFFY) IS THE DIRTIEST PIECE OF PAPER DOCUMENT.

- gobor, NAVELIM | 30 th October 2012 12:45

 

Mr. Radha, i am a bit late to react to your views.. good suggestions, they will definitely help us BUT in the first place how about some changes to your own political party.. how about changing it's constitution, where by Anaclet can be voted out of power within the UGDP, and then finally how about you two practice what you suggest? first withing your party (fiefdom)????

All said and done this piece of yours is perfect to the dot ---work of a lawyer.

- jaret de silva, chandor | 29 th September 2012 00:38

 

All these are excellent suggestions and will definitely help in improving our electoral system. However, I do not agree with the last line of clause g). Why bar candidates from a number of elections. It could be for a period of say two to three years. It should be a positive move to enable the rejected candidate to gain the confidence of the people and should be short.

- Gaurish Wagle, Abu Dhabi | 22 nd September 2012 11:56

 

Related Blogs