Electoral Reforms

India has the most robust democracy. It withstood the pressures of heterogeneity of regional, cultural, and social classifications. It withstood substantial pressures of the times. Concepts of democracy had developed deep roots in the Indian psyche. We adopted the Westminster model of our earlier rulers –Britain. The Westminster model suited the British for their conditions of size of land, size of population, religious diversity, differences in social status and education, income, community classification and social milieu.

Though the Westminster Model, served the main purpose of developing deep roots in democratic system in the country, it was found wanting to give proper representatives to the people. In our present model of ‘First-past–the-post’ person securing the majority of votes, however marginal is declared elected.

Most of the winning candidate secure between 15%-40% of the votes polled, depending upon number of candidates in the election fray. Exceptions who scored more than 40% are far and few. Usually the voters who did not cast their votes is about 30%-35% of the electorate. Presently no provision exists for accounting such votes. This is one lacuna in our electoral system. Votes not cast or negative votes far outweigh the winning candidate votes. Thus representation by the winning candidates is skewed.

A Choice for the Reluctant Voters

Another major segment is the voter who cast the vote reluctantly. They do not want to vote for any of the candidates in the election fray. NOTA is (None Of The Above) option for such voters. NOTA is the right to reject all the electoral candidates. By pressing NOTA candidates are saying no to dirty politics as none of the candidates is fit to be elected. Political parties had been resisting its inclusion for a long time as they knew it would make winning that much more difficult.

The percentage of NOTA is not crystallized. Combined effect of votes not cast and NOTA further compounds the skewed representation by the winning candidate. Interest in the majority electorate is crystal clear.

In many cases majority of winning candidate securing wafer thin majority of about 0.1%of votes polled is not uncommon.

These aberrations are taking a toll on our electoral system. It is opening an opportunity to criminal and uncouth candidate to exploit and enter political parties of all hues and finally to elected positions. It gives them more freedom and protection for their nefarious activities. Even the genuine and well meaning political leadership of all parties are handicapped to deny criminal and uncouth candidates because of their sizable resources of—muscle power and money power and capacity for other malpractices over genuine candidates. This has resulted in exponential increase of these elements in almost all forms of elected bodies—Parliament and Assembly of all states.

This tide has to be stemmed. No leader, however genuine well meaning and proactive can mend the situation. This tide can be stemmed only by the people, exclusively through electoral reforms.

The reforms should aim to ensure genuine representation of the electorate. This can be achieved by amending the criteria.

Wafer Thin Leads

In quite a few cases, the difference between the winning candidate and the immediate next is less than 1% of the electorate of the constituency. Indeed in a Parliament election, the winning candidate secured mere 19 votes majority, which forms about 0.002%. Shocking! It means, the next candidate is equally popular. In running race or sports events, winners are declared even by third decimals in time or distance/length. Election of representatives is not as simplistic as sports or running races.

Qualifying Criteria

A suitable system should be evolved to ensure proper representation. An elected candidate should qualify all following criteria / standards:

1. Obtain minimum majority of 3% of electorate.
2. Obtain minimum of 30% electorate votes.
3. Obtain minimum 1% more than negative votes ie. Votes not polled + NOTA votes.
4. Obtain minimum 3% more than the closest candidate.

A candidate meeting the qualifying criteria / standard only should be declared elected. This would ensure that elected candidates is truly representative of his electorate.

This obviously gives rise to many constituencies not having elected representatives in the first count. For these kinds of unrepresented constituencies, a second election is to be conducted after disqualifying the candidates and their parent political parties who obtained less than 25% of polled votes. Fresh independent candidates should NOT be allowed to enter the fray. Same criteria/standards have to be set for the second election. Many more will be elected as the number of candidates will be less and dummy candidates to divert the electorate will be eliminated. It is possible that some more constituencies go unrepresented.

Second election is certainly as difficult and costly as first election. Alternatively, in the first election itself a second polling booth can be established to get the second preference of the electorate. This would be much cheaper and no large additional logistics are required. However the system is more prone for misuse as dummy candidates are fielded in election fray to divert votes from potential winning candidates. This can be easily negated by not considering the second preference of those candidates who obtained less than 10% polled votes in the first count.

Votes polled party wise in the first count/ round of the remaining unrepresented constituencies if any should be added up. Proportional to the added up votes polled, vacancies to be allotted to parties. Then all seats of the body get filled exclusively by elected representatives only who carry minimum 30% electorate.

Vacant seats from party should be filled proportional to votes obtained by the party. Candidates in each party should be selected based on percentage of total votes polled to the candidate in his constituency. This would ensure that smaller constituencies are not over looked. This method and percentages given are only suggestive. They can be improved and refined to select a candidate from the unelected constituencies.

This process would ensure that the body is represented by at least 30% of electorate as against the present figure of about 15% to 18%. Besides more importantly it motivates political parties to field better candidates, thus contributing for quality elected body representing the people.

It makes our electoral system healthier and stronger. Electorally healthier and stronger body of representatives, gives a strong and healthy democracy to India .

Losing candidates who secure less by 10% of winning candidate should be considered of having lost their security deposits. Only candidates losing by less than 10% from winning candidate should be eligible for refund of deposit. This measure, perhaps, decreases many proxy candidates for fear of losing face in public rather than the deposit amount. Some candidates are fielded by political parties as independent candidates to wean away votes from the potential winning candidates as evident from many cases in recent elections. This results in the potential winners loosing marginally. The covert candidate anyway loses, but the sponsoring political party loses its credibility with public more so if their own candidate also loses the race.

This article confines to percentage of votes to be obtained from the voters. It does not cover the quality and traits or genuineness of the candidates.


More by :  Dr. Somasekhar Rao

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