The electoral system in India based on the universal adult franchise has helped our voters not only in choosing their representatives but also in facilitating the smooth and peaceful change of governments, replacing one political party or a set of political parties by another.
We have also observed that our elections, held so far, have largely been free and fair. People have participated in the election processes actively. Accordingly, elections have become an important part of our democratic life.
And yet, there are certain critical problems that have been adversely affecting not only the quality of the electoral process but also the functioning of the democratic system. These definitely call for electoral reforms.
In fact, the electoral reforms have been engaging the attention of the Parliament, the Government, the Election Commission, the Press, and the people for a long time. Some measures were implemented in the past to remove glaring lacunae in the law.
Based on the experiences in the recent past, the need has been felt for some steps to be taken quickly for the amendment of certain provisions of law. There are issues like
- rigging of the elections - fake and bogus voting, impersonation,
- violence during elections,
- the adverse role of money and muscle power,
- intimidation of voters especially the people of weaker sections,
- misuse of governmental machinery,
- booth capturing and criminalization in both elections and politics, that demand immediate attention.
These negative developments have been discussed at different levels and actions are on for electoral reforms. Indeed, a lot of electoral reforms have already been introduced.
But no system of election can ever be perfect. In actual practice, there always come up with flaws and limitations in the electoral practices. We have to keep searching for some mechanism to make elections truly free, fair and impartial.
Numerous suggestions for electoral reforms have come from scholars, political parties, government-sponsored committees, and various independent sources.
A tentative list of suggested electoral reforms is as follows:
- The democratization of electoral system be made from time to time so as to keep the electoral system in pace with changing times;
- change from the on-going system (plurality system) to some form of proportional representation system to be introduced to reduce the votes-seats imbalance (see box below);
- the functioning of political parties to be regulated in order to ensure that they function in a transparent and democratic manner. There is a need to audit their expenditure incurred during the elections;
- electoral laws to be made more stringent and there must be provisions for harsher punishment;
- state funding of elections to be introduced so as to reduce and curb election expenses;
- special provision to be made to ensure at least one-third representation of women in Parliament and State legislatures;
- the role of money and muscle power to be curbed during the elections;
- criminalization of politics to be stopped in the elections;
- candidates with any criminal record to be barred from contesting elections; and
- complete ban to be imposed on the use of caste and religious appeal in election campaigns.
The Election Commission has taken several new initiatives in the recent past, a reference to some of which has already been made above. Notable among these are:
- a scheme for use of State-owned Electronic Media for broadcast/telecast by political parties,
- restrictions on Opinion and Exit Polls (because these polls might influence voters),
- checking criminalization of politics,
- computerization of electoral rolls,
- providing electors with Identity Cards,
- Simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filing of the same by candidates and
- a variety of measures for strict compliance of Model Code of Conduct for providing a level playing field to contestants during the elections.
As our electoral system has worked well even under certain adverse conditions, hopes are ripe that democracy in our country is going to stay and continue to be better. Our people are committed to democratic values and there are chances that the governments would come up to people’s expectations.
Also read: Types Of Indian Political Parties