“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.Indian Democracy is the widely accepted and the most popular Democracy with people electing their representatives at Village level(Local bodies and panchayat) and at central level (Parliament).
Our Country India has a parliamentary system of governance based on Britain's Westminster model of Constitutional Democracy, where the powers are distributed between the centre and the state, and where the President is the Nominal Executive Head and the Prime Minister along with his council of Ministers is the Real Executive Head.
When it comes to Elections, there are many layers to cover as before the Independence Indian Electoral System was indeed in the hands of Britishers. The principle of Elections was introduced for the very first time in the year 1909 through Indian Councils Act, which was commonly known as Morley-Minto reforms, this act was an attempt to widen up the scope of legislative council's and to increase Indians participation in governance. After India attained Independence in August 1947, there was a need to conduct general elections as the population was increasing day by day and there was no such law and order to govern the country.
Electoral Reforms In India
“Elections are held to delude the populace into believing that they are participating in Government”.
-Gerald F. Lieberman
Electoral process in India has undergone multiple changes with every passing year, as changes in the electoral system can only be proposed when the ruling system sees any flaws in the existing system. This article deals with those prominent changes that have happened so far.
After 1947's Independence, Indian citizens were acknowledged as an important being and thus they were given choice to elect their representatives on the basis of Universal Adult Suffrage also known as Universal Adult Franchise, which gives the right to vote to all adult citizens regardless of wealth, gender, caste, race, sex, income, status or any such restrictions. This principle was adopted on the date of enactment of the Indian Constitution i.e. in 1946, which was implemented on 26 January, 1950. Later, in the year 1988, under 61st amendment act, the age limit for casting a vote was lowered from 21 years to 18 years, under the leadership of Rajiv Gandhi(congress government). Indian Constitution made election a free and fair practice at different levels, for which the Election Commission was set up as an independent constitutional authority which has high validity power to check upon the election process and no other body, even the Judiciary, can intervene in the electoral process. Article 324 of the constitution provides election procedure, and the first chief Election Commissioner Shri Sukumar Sen was appointed on March 21st, 1950.
In the first and second general elections held between 1951-1952 and 1957 respectively adopted the "Balloting system of voting", under which every candidate was given a separate ballot box, at different polling booth, where the voters were required to drop the ballot paper according to their choice of the candidate, the papers were used to be centrally printed.
From the 3rd general elections some changes were made as in 1962 onwards, "marking system" was adopted by the commission, under this system, centrally printed papers contained the names and signs of all the contesting candidates and upon which the voter has to make a cross arrow mark with the help of rubber stamp and all the ballot papers were collected in the same ballot box.
This system of voting system was changed thereafter as it lead to several attacks during the election hour including booth capturing crashing the free and fair agenda of election process, and with this a new system came into existence which is in force in the present time as well, that is, "Electronic Voting Machine" (EVMs) which was for the first time used in Kerala in the year 1982 in the Parur Assembly Constituency, on experimental process. The extensive use of EVMs started in 1998.The EVMs were used at all polling stations in the country in the 14th General Elections to the Lok Sabha in 2004 for the first time. Since then all elections to Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies have been held using EVMs.
The problem does not come only at the time of election, but even after the election, there are many problems, one of them is Political Defection,because of certain chaos and inner stability in the political system, the members of the legislature moves from one party to another to which they had supported at the time of election. Thus, for which in the year 1985, to curb this situation the 52nd constitution amendment act on anti-defection was passed and the 10th Schedule was added in the Indian Constitution.
The electoral reforms has gone through several Committees formation, some major committees are:
Several electoral reforms were made from time to time and besides the mentioned committees many committees gave their recommendations, some of them were incorporated and many of them were left ignored. The challenges with the rising issues made the process of election somewhat blurred, let's take a look at the issues.
Issues and Challenges:
In every constituency, candidates need to spend crores of rupees for campaigning, advertisements on T.V, radio, and pasting big hoardings on each and every street for which the parties may at a time exceed the permissible limit of the expenses. The candidates make every such effort which will increase their chance of winning the election. Thus, the candidate which has enough money can spend and advertise for their party whereas, the candidate who doesn't possess that much of money remains unseen by the citizens.
In many areas which are at the outskirts of the state reported certain attacks, intimidation and booth capturing at the time of election, which is done with an intention to stop the election process or to refrain people from giving vote to a certain party.
Criminalisation of Politics and Politicization of Criminals
Criminals enter into politics with a view that they will surely win the election with the muscle and money power, and the party gives tickets to these criminals because they are happy to get a winnable candidate, and in return they give protection to these criminals.
Misuse of Government Machinery
We often see that the party in power uses government machinery like government vehicles, disbursements out of the discretionary funds, use of taxes given by the common people to do campaigning and advertisements of their party at government expenses to improve the chances of their candidates winning.
Non-serious Independent candidates
Serious candidates float non-serious candidates in elections to cut a good portion of the votes that would otherwise have gone to rival candidates.
This issue is the very oldest one, it can be traced from British era at the time of hindu muslims reforms, there are certain groups of people who are inclined towards one particular political party. And Political parties use this very funda to please such groups in every possible way to get votes from them.
Earlier communities were formed to protect one another from the humiliation of other communities who are in majority, but now this is used as a vote gaining agenda as communal polarization has its roots from many years which cannot be shredded in present time.
Lack of moral values in Politics
Political corruption is not a new thing, it is not hidden from anyone that many people come to politics only for power and money, so that they can earn money in a wrong way. There are only a few people who join politics to serve for the nation and to bring positive change in the society.
Now,the way our Legislature, the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha and the State Legislature Assemblies function does not make us very proud, there are many cons and problems with the Legislature, one of the major problem is the increasing number of unsatisfactory candidates who find their way to Legislature, on the basis of money and power. It was reported by ADR (Association of Democratic Reforms)analysis finds 71% of winning candidates in Kerala, 60% in Tamil Nadu, 49% in Bengal have criminal cases in the 2021 general elections, along with Sixty-three per cent of the winning candidates said they had graduate or higher degrees, while 35% said their education qualification was between Class V to Class XII.
These people after getting elected would represent their particular state on what basis, if they do not have a clean past record or higher education, we often forget the very fact that these political classes emerge from society only. This is where Electoral Reforms become important. We need much greater cooperation across party-lines, changes to our own political system to make it more transparent and accountable. New ideas and thoughts must be taken into consideration, likewise; Underage youth may not be able to vote in the general election, but their voices and actions can make a huge difference in the political system to ensure clean and honest elections.
Electoral reforms are made with a view to make the election process free and fair, and the problems relating to which should be solved at the grassroot level. The election defects take years to be solved when the power is vested in wrong hands, Election process should be free and reasonable in all senses as it gives immense power to a single person to serve and handle the whole nation. The representative of a nation or a state has to be elected through valid and non-corruptive reforms thus changes to which are normal. We have seen long procedural changes in the electoral reforms which reflect that Change is a must as the society grows in all aspects. The Election Commission of India needs to be stricter regarding the implementation of the election reforms. And the election practice should be free, clean and citizen-friendly, so that we can see a healthy development of democracy in the country.
Submitted by Swati Mishra