With elections round the corner, electoral reforms are being talked about again. I am not a great political analyst but whatever I have seen and learnt of politics, I find that the following few reforms are needed to improve the system.
1. Change in definition of national party (NP) and state party (SP): Currently the definitions are too loose.
National Party: A registered party is recognized as a National Party only if it fulfills any of the following three conditions:
- The party wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha (11 seats) from at least 3 different States.
- At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party polls 6% of votes in four States and in addition it wins 4 Lok Sabha seats.
- A party gets recognition as State Party in four or more States.
1st condition is good. 2nd & 3rd very loose, only 4 states out of 28 states in India.
State Party: A political party shall be treated as a recognized political party in a State, if and only if the political party fulfills any of the following conditions:
- At General Elections or Legislative Assembly elections, the party has won 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the State ( subject to a minimum of 3 seats).
- At a Lok Sabha General Elections, the party has won 1 Lok sabha seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seat allotted for the State.
- At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly , the party has polled minimum of 6% of votes in a State and in addition it has won 1 Lok Sabha or 2 Legislative Assembly seats.
- At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled 8% of votes in a State.
Too many conditions. Definition of national and state parties need to be changed. National party should be one which has got 3%+ votes in last Lok Sabha elections. State Party is one which has got 3%+ votes in last assembly elections.
2. India is currently facing a problem of plenty. Too many political parties. Any Tom Dick & Harry forms a party, gets a few seats, blackmails national parties. India has seen coalition govts. since 1989 and there has been a lot of instability.
Only national parties can contest in national elections and state parties of a state in a state assembly election. This is necessary to curb ideologically bankrupt regional parties. If anybody else wants to contest, they have to stand as independents. This is necessary to negate criticism and some people raising banner of right to stand in elections akin to a fundamental right. Other option is that a state party can fight in Lok Sabha only with pre-poll alliance with a national party and on national party symbol.
My thoughts already published on “Should regional parties be allowed to contest national elections?” See link: https://politicalbaaba.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/should-regional-parties-be-allowed-to-contest-national-elections/
3. Increase in security deposit: Current security deposit is Rs. 25,000 for Lok Sabha. This needs to be considerably increased given the fact that 80%+ candidates have forfeited their deposits since the last two decades. It is very important to flush out non serious candidates and prevent corruption.
4. Change the “None of the Above Option” (NATO) rule. Currently, this is a useless rule. If NATO gets highest votes, there should be a re-election and none of the current set of candidates should be allowed to contest.
5. People should not be allowed to contest from 2 seats. They in the end retain only one and this leads to re-elections and additional cost. If this is to be allowed, the party which vacates the seat should not be allowed to stand in by-elections or should bear the expenses of re-election. Alternatively, candidate who was second should be declared winner.
6. A Member of Parliament / Member of Legislative Assembly should not be allowed to resign before his / her term ends. If he / she resigns for any reason then he / she can’t stand in by-elections. This is necessary to prevent jumping from one party to another and then standing on different party ticket in by-elections.
7. No defections should be allowed. If someone defects to another party, he / she automatically loses seat and can’t stand in by-elections from same seat.
8. An MLA / MLC / Rajya Sabha MP who wishes to fight for Lok Sabha should first resign from current seat before filing nominations.
9. Non Residents Indians should be allowed to vote. An arrangement should be done in embassies in foreign countries or they should be allowed e-voting.
10. E-voting should be started in India as well. With everything moving to internet, people should be allowed to vote on the internet. This will save time and costs and also helpful for people who live away from their homes and have their voter ids in different city.
11. Army jawans and paramilitary forces should be allowed to vote. There is a provision for postal ballot but some logistical issues regarding the same. EC is looking into it.
12. People in jail for whatever reason can’t be allowed to contest elections. Mukhtar Ansari taking on Modi in Varanasi is in jail currently.
13. People in CIBIL / RBI defaulters list should not be allowed to contest elections.
14. MPs / MLAs should be disqualified if their attendance is <67% in a year or if they spend <67% of their constituency development funds. Logistics can be worked out. First warning can be issued, then disqualification.
14. Voters should have a right to recall. Should it be exercised every year? It is perhaps not practical. I suggest it should be done after 2.5 years of MP / MLA tenure. Do we carry out a full fledged voting (cost angle) or a survey or an opinion poll sort of thing can be worked out?
15. State funding of elections: A lot has been said about this. This will reduce use of black money in elections and bring in a transparent funding mechanism. I personally am against this. Why should tax payer’s hard earned money be used to pay for elections? Let parties pay for it.
16. India should gradually move to a Presidential form of government. This will allow more transparency at the level of government. My thoughts already published. Link for the same. http://www.yugvani.com/does-india-require-presidential-form-of-government/
17. The income of MPs / MLAs should not be exempt and taxed. Further their salaries also need to be revised. While this may not curb corruption this brings them on par with salaries in the private sector and increases accountability.
Readers please provide your thoughts. Add / subtract whatever you feel is appropriate. Of course the list is not comprehensive……