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Elections: Let credibility be the prime concern

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Elections:  Let credibility be the prime concern
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The Election Commission (EC) of India has put forth a new suggestion ‘one year one election’. Reports say that the new suggestion is an alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive of ‘one nation one election’.

Modi had proposed holding elections simultaneously to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The Commission does agree with this. But it requires five constitutional amendments in order to implement that. For one year one election, only one article needs to be amended.

The EC put forth the new alternative while recognizing Modi’s proposal in response to a letter from the Law Commission seeking the Prime Minister’s views on aligning the state assembly polls with the Lok Sabha elections. The Commission, before revealing its suggestions in this highly significant matter, had taken into account the constitutional hindrances and the practical difficulties in executing it. Above all, it can be comprehended that there has been no concern about how such changes would affect the federal system and democratic culture of the country. There are observers, legal experts and activists who have strong opinions in this matter. The Law Commission should be considering their views as well.

There are other urgent matters that need deliberation by the EC. The fully independent character of the Commission was established during the tenure of T N Seshan as the Chief Election Commissioner. It is a fact that this has been eroded subsequently. The independent character and impartiality of the EC is essential for the credibility of the elections and the health of democracy. The Commission should give a tad higher priority to the thought as to what is required to reclaim that. Several new issues that shatter the credibility of the elections should also be urgently resolved. This year, elections are scheduled to be held in a few states. The Lok Sabha elections are due next year. The Commission has only limited time to tackle the signs of danger witnessed in a few elections recently held and to find solutions. Such a short time is not to be spent on impractical and inappropriate reforms.

During certain elections lately, there have been experiences that intensify the skepticisms regarding the voting machines. Though the Commission tried facing the allegations that the machines could be rigged by challenging them, that not been sufficient to reclaim the trust of the people. There were incidents later that gave rise to suspicions such as that pressing any button registered the vote only foronly one candidate. There should be serious deliberations and measures on the part of the Commission in this matter. And it should happen immediately. The accusations that the donations received by the parties during elections are not transparent still exist. Neither the Centre nor the prominent parties show any interest in setting it right. However, an indifferent stance does not befit the Election Commission. The Commission’s main priority should be to make the elections completely corruption-free. There is no limit to the funds spent by the parties. The real flow of money goes beyond the figures submitted by them. Steps should be taken urgently in this matter as well to find a solution.

Another matter that is essential to regain the credibility of the elections is to make the promises given by the political parties and candidates their legal obligation. The tactic of first giving promises to somehow win votes and then neglecting all such promises makes a mockery of the elections. Yet another matter is that of fake campaigns. Bogus campaigns both overt and cover were rampant during the Karnataka elections. Highly communal lies and dangerous contentions were spread with the blessings of some main stream parties to influence the voters. Although fake, what prompts this is that such claims are adequate to influence the votes. This business of lies in which the public ranging from the media to private groups on social media take part, is a matter which the EC should tackle urgently. Amidst these grave ailments, let the Commission make the polls real elections.

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