Democracy in India in largest democracy of the world is passing through a most difficult turmoil because of the power hungry politicians in connivance with the money and muscle power.
To save this great democracy of the world both the Parliament and Election Commission of India have to take urgent, immediate and hard tests to dealing muscle and money power from the electoral process in the country.
The steps taken by Election Commission to introduce identity cards for the voters, guidelines for the conduct of the poll and to ensure free and fair poll have failed to yield desirable results. The Commission itself is passing through a period of crisis because of the unnecessary, undesirable and unwanted political interference by political parties associated with the power that be.
The recent elections held in Jammu and Kashmir and some other far-flung states should be eye-openers for the Election Commission of India as well as those who have been struggling to ensure free and fair polls for the state as well as Lok Sabha in this country.
1. Misuse of helicopters and private video channels
This has been seen that the candidates of wealthy parties have been using helicopters and private video channels for their election campaign in the name of their parties by dumping their black moneys thus adding to the pollution and uncertainty in the already deteriorating electoral process. All the private helicopters were booked by Congress and National Conference for Jammu and Kashmir.
The helicopters belonging to Pawan Hans Helicopters Group were requisitioned by the Congress for the entire period of two months. Panthers Party was denied an opportunity to hire a helicopter for election campaign even for a day. The state helicopters were not given to any party on hire basis just to keep the Panthers Party, may be some others, out of the campaign in the far-flung hilly areas in Jammu and Kashmir. In 1996 elections the state helicopters could be hired by any contesting political party for a fix period. The Election Commission failed to appreciate this discriminatory attitude towards small parties.
Similarly, private video channels which have mushroomed everywhere or under the control of electoral machinery. Use of black money for election propaganda by the private video channels has vitiated the entire electoral process and its decency.
2. EVM and fair polls
EVMs have been misused by the administration for the benefit of the chosen few. EVM can be manipulated and used by the candidates of the ruling parties. There are hundreds of polling stations in Jammu and Kashmir and several Assembly Constituencies where more than two votes were cast in one minute which is impossible. The percentage of votes polled in the hill areas of Kupwara, Kishtwar, Bani, rose above 80% which is absolutely impossible. Besides, what was the fun to keep EVMs for months in a store room under the administration after the completion of the polls. The last phase of polls in J&K was held on 24th December, 2008 in the Districts of Srinagar and Jammu. The counting was conducted on 28th December. This has damaged the credibility of the electoral process. There are many examples to be quoted to prove that use of EVM shall prove a disaster to the credibility of parliamentary democracy in India.
3. Electorates and Voters Identity Cards
The credibility of the voters identity cards issued by the Election Commission of India has been negated. Thousands of voters’ cards issued by Election Commission of India in respective Assembly Constituencies were discarded by the Presiding Officers. Similarly, thousands of voters’ names were deleted in Jammu District only without explanation or without issuing any notice to such voters whose names were taken out of the voters’ lists. There is a need for comprehensive revision of the voters’ lists in the country. Jammu and Kashmir needs it most.
4. Census in J&K
Census of 2001 in J&K conducted during National Conference rule deserved to be quashed on the reason that 11 lacs. of population was shown to have increased since 1991. The population of Jammu region had gone down. Five lacs. People from Kashmir Valley had migrated due to terrorism during this period. The Election Commission did not care to hold appropriate inquiry.
5. Funding of Elections
The most important remedy to save present parliamentary system is to dealing electoral process from money and muscle power. The Election Commission must exert itself to persuade the Parliament and other government agencies to ensure that elections are funded by the consolidated fund of the Parliament to the candidates of the recognized political parties at least. The menace of liquor and video channels needs to be checked.
6. The Proposition floated regarding negative voting cannot go with the free and fair electoral process. No where in the world such a system has worked. The secrecy of vote is lost when an elector asks for the mandatory form for negative voting. If we wish to continue the system of negative voting we should include negative voting as a button on the balloting unit, which may be the last button in any constituency. This way the secrecy of voting including that of negative voting would be maintained.
The Election Commission of India has to grow as an autonomous institution. The serving officials and the policy makers of the Election Commission of India have to grow as Indian election service cadre.