The recently concluded meeting by the Election Commission of India with all major national and regional political parties seems to have paved the way for long standing demands for electoral reforms.
The major changes discussed by all political parties included the use of totaliser for counting of votes on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The totaliser involves pulling out the result from a group of EVMs rather than from one single EVM to protect the voting pattern of a constituency. It was also suggested that the format of the affidavit submitted by the candidates to the EC should be amended to include the declaration of the source of income of the candidate. The commission also talked of maintaining high standards in election speeches.
The security deposit amount of the candidates, it was proposed, should be increased in order to contain the number of dummy candidates. The need to prohibit telecasting of any campaign on electronic media while polling is on for a phase in a multi-phased election was also discussed.
Sources in the EC said, “A consultation process on electoral reforms has started. This engaged all the six national and 29 regional political parties. It throws light on the willingness of the political parties to consider big reforms to make elections free and fair. However, the EC will deal with candidates who use foul language and incite violence in their election speech with a heavy hand.” “We are hoping to come out with stronger laws that could check election malpractices,” added the source.
However, the Association for Democratic Reforms’ founder trustee, Professor Jagdeep Chhokar, who has been working for democratic reforms in the country for the last 15 years, said, “Proposals are being made since many years. There exist several recommendations and suggestions, but nothing happens. It is time to see when, how and who would make them into laws and effectively implement them. It is time to deliver to protect our democracy.”
He believes that it is the lack of political will on part of the major political parties that derail electoral reforms.
He wants political parties to come under the Right to Information Act as recommended by the Chief Information Commission. He also wants that parties receiving foreign funding should be dealt with strictly as that amounts to violation of the Foreign Funding and Regulation Act (FCRA).
The EC has also augmented several new IT initiatives for the five poll-bound states.
Applications like “Suvidha” have been launched for political parties to seek permission for rallies, meetings, etc. “Samadahan” is another application that would facilitate as public grievances redressal system, whereas “Matdata”’ would facilitate voters to locate their electoral rolls and polling stations.
Apart from these there will be GPS-based monitoring of polling stations, e-filing of affidavits and SMS poll monitoring systems.