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Streamline Election Process

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With the announcement of the date and the schedule for the “Festival of Democracy”, the General Elections 2019, by the Chief Election Commissioner, the political parties will soon kick start their campaigns nationwide vigorously.  Simultaneously, the ‘Model Code of Conduct” as prescribed by the Election Commission will also come into force and which need to be strictly followed by the candidates and their political parties.

However, I would suggest the following additional measures to the Election Commission to implement:

a)     Today, any Tom, Dick, and Harry can form a political party with a few followers. In India, we already have too many political parties – national and regional. Many of them are with identical names too. Hence, there must be a ban on the formation of a new party anymore. Needless to say, if a party doesn’t score a specific percentage of votes overall, it must be de-recognised immediately.

b)    High time to enforce that only those candidates who have passed graduation from recognised universities (not postal or private ones or honorary degrees), will be eligible to contest. Today as we have seen in MP and Rajasthan, those who were totally illiterate and could not even read had not only got elected but were made ministers too! No candidate with “just 10th std. fail or 12th.std. pass” should ever enter the fray.

c) No candidate who is above 75 years of age should be allowed to contest. We still have leaders who are 80/85 plus and even with ailments, health problems etc. wish to contest. Let us have young and dynamic leaders in the fray.

d) No candidate should be allowed to contest from more than one constituency. Presently, even prominent candidates contest from two or even three different constituencies, to play safe.  Once they win from both (or all three) constituencies, they keep one and surrender the other, where an election needs to held again. “Playing Safe” by contesting from more than one constituency, should be banned.

e)     There should be a restriction on the number of candidates contesting for a single seat/constituency. In certain constituencies, the ballot papers (now EVMs) are as big as a newspaper!!  Apart from increased costs, voters too become more confused.

f) No “Post-Poll alliances” between political parties should be permitted. Depending on the results, smaller parties take advantage of the scenario to join hands with the “winning party” which would form the government.  Such alliances lead to horse-trading and buying of elected representatives. Here’s when the power of money comes into play.

g) If an MP, during his last term in the Parliament, had not maintained minimum attendance and had also not cared for his constituency, he/she should be disqualified and not be given the ticket to contest again from any constituency.

h) Though the EC, this time has instructed the candidates to specify the information related to criminals cases, any candidate who has a criminal record and who is on bail due to corruption and other cases going on against them, should not be allowed to contest. There is a provision for this in the constitution and a few leaders who were found guilty and given jail term are already banned from contesting.

i) Lastly, we have seen how many political leaders have amassed wealth and properties. The candidates, therefore, must be asked to provide the complete list of their wealth, assets and properties standing in their names and those of his/her family and ‘benamis’ too and to make this public.

It’s high time to streamline the election process completely and discipline the candidates to a great extent. TN Seshan, during his tenure as the CEC, decades ago, enforced many reforms and introduced a severe model code of conduct and disciplinary measures. Those were unthinkable then in the Indian political arena but many of his reforms and many more which were introduced subsequently, are being successfully implemented by our Election Commission.

However, we still have to enforce the above measures. Especially, to ban standing from more than one constituency, ban post-poll alliances, age limit, educational background, provision of the list of wealth, and asset etc. can be enforced immediately. Will our CEC team take note of the above for necessary implementation? Hope they still have time to announce some of the major reforms as said above.

My best wishes to the CEC and his team for the great general elections to be conducted peacefully and successfully.

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