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Democracy Ends The Day We Cast Our Votes?

"An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it." - George Bernard Shaw

Electoral reform means introducing fair electoral systems for conducting fair elections. It also includes recuperation of the existing systems to enhance and increase the efficiency of the same.

One of the most important features of our democratic structure is elections which are held at regular intervals. Free and fair elections are indispensable for a healthy democracy. India has an indirect form of democracy which implies that the government draws its authority from the "will of the people". It is the citizens who have the sovereign power to elect the government and this government is responsible to the people who have elected them. But there are some shortcomings connected with this form of democracy which we have been carrying since long. The citizens who elect the representatives have no right to "recall or reject the representative" on the ground that they are unsatisfactory for their post.

Six decades ago, India opted for a Parliamentary democracy at the time of Independence. The term "Parliamentary democracy" implies that the sovereign power to elect the representatives vests with the citizens.

But now the time has come to chew over the points that were we correct in opting for this form of democracy. We should not only blame the politicians alone but also we the people of this country because we also are some where responsible for the same. The first and the foremost task that is required to be done at this hour is the removal of two dreadful things, that is, money power and muscle power. Besides this, four C's have also to be wiped off.

This includes corruption, criminalization, casteism and communalism. After being elected as a representative of the government, politicians turn their deaf ear towards the citizens with the help of whom they were able to climb up to their chambers. But these are the topics still waiting in the queue to be taken into consideration. No one feels like giving their ear to it.

We have a Parliament that does not discuss those issues which requires serious attention and debate. Just because we have elections every year, it does not mean that we have an effective democratic structure. We can compare this with other countries which attained freedom from colonial rule at the time when India achieved its Independence.

The condition differs. It's true that we have inaugurated a good democratic structure as compared to other developing nations but the recent observations shows that we are still lagging behind because of the intervention of criminalization in politics. Indian political system is deteriorating day by day due to various reasons like misuse of offices, money power, corrupt officials, etc. Politics is like a game. If you play well, you will keep on ascending and one day you will be certified as the Master of Politics.

People today, consider this arena to be a dirty one and they usually don't prefer intruding in the same. They regard it as a scoundrel's field. There was a time when socially, a corrupt person was not regarded as a desirable man. But today, we have reached such a stage that corruption is not only taken for granted but people with money are most respected by society. The fault lies in the political and electoral system that has derailed the social, economic, and administrative fabric of the country.

Electoral Reforms In India

Elections form the mainstay of our Indian Democracy. Our democratic setup bestows on us the right to elect the representatives of the state. Besides, the elected people have the right to choose the Head of the State. The elections in India have a long history. India has both General and State elections as promoted by our federal structure. The Election Commission of India is the apex body that conducts elections in India. Both the General and State Elections are held as per the rules prescribed by the Election Commission.

This Commission is composed of high-ranking government officials and is constituted according to the provisions of the Indian Constitution. A great degree of autonomous power is bestowed on the Election Commission to exercise control over the election process. Even the judiciary has no right to intervene while the electoral process is on.

Some of the Electoral reforms that have occupied the Election Process includes EVMs that is, Electronic Voting Machine which results in more transparency and creditability of elections, Universal Adult Franchise initiated by the 61st Amendment, 1988 which has reduced the age of voters from 21 years to 18 years and Anti- Defection Law which curtails the criminals from taking tickets of various political parties and also bestows on them the right to extract the contesting candidates' profile. Besides, Section 58A has been inserted in the Representative of the People's Act by Act 1 of 1989 providing for an adjournment of pole or revoking of elections because of booth capturing.

Elections In India

Elections in India are held for the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and the State Legislative Assemblies that is Vidhan Sabha, the Legislative Council is known as Vidhan Parishad and for the President and the Vice- President too. Besides, elections are also held for the local bodies like the Municipalities, the Municipal corporations, and the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

A large expanse of money is spent when these elections are held. The Chief Election Commissioner, Shri. Sushil Chandra recently spoke about the challenges of a corrupt electoral system. He says that elections have become the biggest source of corruption because a huge expanse of money is spent in conducting such elections and this is beyond the prescribed limit. The candidates who win have the propensity to take their money back and that too with interest.

This is how corruption commences. He further adds that it has become a competitive phenomenon in the system. If one party spends more money, then the other party standing for election spends like a spendthrift. Whether it is money or criminals, both are competitive. In his words, "If a criminal is put up by one party then the other party feels very disadvantaged. They feel they have no chance until a bigger dada is put up against them".

Free And Fair Elections

India is the largest democracy in the world. Since 1947, free and fair elections are held at regular intervals as per the guidelines of the Constitution and the Election Commission. The Constitution of India has vested in the Election Commission of India the superintendence, direction, and control of the entire process for conduct of elections to Parliament and Legislature of every State and to the offices of President and Vice-President of India. Elections are conducted as per the constitutional provisions and the laws made by Parliament. The major laws are Representation of the People Act, 1950, mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls with all aspects of the conduct of elections and post-election disputes.

Criminalization In The Electoral System

Criminalization in politics has contributed towards a feeble electoral system. The representatives who stand for elections are stuffed with various criminal charges against them. It is a well-known perspective from a common man's eyes that these politicians take the comfort of criminal elements to ascend the ladder. This is really a matter of agonizing the citizens who go and vote for them. If they give vote considering that it is their fundamental right, then are these politicians cum criminals who are leading us creating a just atmosphere?

The answer will always be a decisive no. The Law Commission of India Reports contains the biodata of the politicians, describing their social background, charges against them, if any, etc. It is our fundamental right to know the antecedents of every person to whom we give a vote. But very few make use of such benefit. This is because of the lack of awareness among people. Section 8 of the People Representation Act, 1951 provides for disqualification of any candidate on being convicted by a Court of Law.

It also includes that such a candidate shall be barred from contesting any election further for six additional years since the date of conviction. This shows a vital step to controlling criminalization in politics. But the question is; is there a hardhearted implementation on the same? Is it so that we have corrupt-free officials? Also, do they feel the endurance of such tests meant for scrutinizing their background? To all this, the answer remains "no".

The reason for this is the use of money power in politics. One of the most important reasons for the criminalization of politics is the nexus between politicians and bureaucracy. Even factors like caste and religion are equally responsible for this. It is seen in many states in India that a minister of a particular caste or religion will be favorable towards the members of his own caste or religion.

The quota system is equally responsible for this criminalization. Individuals and political parties do astronomical expenditures for buying the votes and for other illegitimate purposes. The politician's link with the constituency gives rise to political crime. Corruption is also an important factor in the criminalization of politics. The corrupted political member uses his powers for winning the elections not in a fair manner.

The origin of the problem of the criminalization of politics is mainly the country's poor governance capacity. On one hand, excessive procedures are used by India to allow the bureaucracy to insert into the ordinary life of people while on the other hand, it appears that it is woefully understaffed to perform its most crucial function. A partisan interfering in the investigation of crime and poor prosecution of cases. Massive delays of cases of criminal candidates over the years and high cost that is involved in the judicial proceedings. Unwarranted granting of parole and abundance withdrawal of the court cases.

Criminalization in politics is not very new, there were and there are many of the politicians charged with criminal and corruption records, which implies that our democracy ends the day we cast our votes.

Issues And Challenges Before The Election Commission

There has been a universal appreciation of the Indian electoral system. People have hailed the manner in which elections have been conducted in India. But there are its weaknesses. It has been seen that in spite of the efforts of the Election Commission to ensure a free and fair election, there are certain shortcomings of our Electoral system and also there are some issues before the election commission of India.

The role of unaccounted money in elections has become a serious problem. The political parties collect funds from companies and business houses and then use this money to influence the voter to vote in their favor. The business contributions are mostly in cash and are not unaccounted. Many other corrupt practices are also adopted during elections such as bribing, rigging, or voters intimidation, impersonation, and providing transport and conveyance of voters to and fro the polling stations. The reports of liquor being distributed in poor areas are frequent during an election. These are some illegal practices performed by the candidates during elections on the basis of their money power.

The dominant role of money in elections, which is taking newer and outrageous forms, is deeply worrying. Instances of politicians paying for news coverage and bribing voters were widespread in 2009-2010 elections and even vote for note scam is one of the biggest examples of money power. On seeing these instances, politics seems to be the market of the barter system.

As result violence during elections has also increased. Though these activities do not take place very openly but are still in progress, there are many small towns where these activities take place before and even after the elections and there is nobody to oppose it. Generally, the candidates are given tickets by the political parties on the consideration of whether the candidate can muster the support of numerically larger castes and communities and possesses enough resources. Even the electorates vote on the caste and communal lines. Communal loyalties of the voters are used at the time of propaganda campaigns.

This system of caste and religious voting showed up during various election campaigns when the candidates used to give their speeches in favor of one religion. All the political parties do not have equal opportunity in respect of access to resources. The party in power is always in an advantageous position over the opposition parties. There is the widespread allegation that the party in power accomplishes misuse of the government machinery.

All these features lead to violence, booth capturing, rigging bogus voting, forcible removal of ballot papers, ballot boxes burning of vehicles, etc. which result in loss of public faith in elections. The weaker and vulnerable sections among electors are forcibly prohibited from voting or are made to vote against their free will. Many of the ineligible voters find the place in electoral rolls like dead and shifted voters and even sometimes many of the noncitizens also find the place in electoral rolls. Even we found repetitions and duplications on electoral rolls.

There are sometimes mistake in spelling the names of electors, the names of their Father/Mother/Husband (as the case may be), date of birth, address, etc. Mistakes in the spelling of names, recording of date of birth/age and the correct recording of addresses have been some of the major irritants as far as the electors are concerned.

Because of the hitherto used old techniques of writing the name of the elector in one language and then transliterating it into another (English, Hindi or some regional language), problems have repeatedly arisen incorrectly spelling the names of persons or their addresses. This has dented the credibility of electoral rolls.

Another challenge associated with the management of electoral rolls in India is matching the correct photograph with the elector's details of each and every elector whose name finds a place in the roll. Here again, because of the hitherto used old technique of keeping the electors' details and their photographs separately, mismatch in photographs used to be reported quite often. There is no provision for making online applications by the candidate which also reduces the transparency.

Citizens have no way to track the application or there is no effective monitoring of tracking application, even most of the people or citizens of India are unaware about their right to track application, they are not aware of whether they can ask for tracking the application of the candidate participating in an election.

The way our Legislature, the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, and the State Legislative Assemblies function, it does not make us feel proud. One of the major problems with the Legislature is the number of unsatisfactory candidates who find their way to the Legislatures. For example, it was reported by the media that more than half of the MLAs to the present state assembly election in Uttar Pradesh had noteworthy criminal records.

It is quite common to put almost all the entire blame for the current state of affairs on the so-called political class in the country. But those who blame them entirely overlook the fact that this political class emerges from the society only. They are not developed in a vacuum or in isolation. It's the citizens who do not make use of the benefit furnished to them. Therefore, one way to change the behavior of the political class would be to change the system in which they have to operate. This is where electoral reforms become important.

The Government believes that our political system is broken. We urgently need fundamental political reform, including a referendum on electoral reform, much greater cooperation across party lines, and changes to our political system to make it far more transparent and accountable.

Be Bright, Vote For What Is Right!

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