But democracy — the political system adopted under the Constitution by our country slowly and gradually found other parties getting formed and getting their foothold.
Out of the sixty years of independence West Bengal has seen an unbroken record of the communist Party rule. In other States too there have been at different stages and periods other parties also forming governments. Slowly and gradually a multi-party system got developed in the country and several regional parties emerged and are emerging and are making their presence felt. What is the most concerning aspect of the emergence of these parties is that most of them are exploiting caste politics; actually they have come into being only on the foundation of caste divisions. The Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav seeks votes on its ‘Yadav’ plank; the Bahujan Samaj Party — though calls itself a Bahujan Samaj Party — concentrates mainly on the votes of the scheduled castes, the scheduled tribes. The Backward classes get shared by the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Biju Patnaik Janata Party is a regional party which has emerged in Orissa and has succeeded in clinching power in the State, of course, with the support of the BJR Then there is the Trinamul Congress of Mamta Banerjee which has no caste base but it has emerged as a formidable force to reckon with and is shaking the foundations of the Communist Party in power—the CPM. The Akali Dal in Punjab is a Sikh dominated party.
The Shiva Sena in Maharashtra is a Hindu dominated party and it shared power at the State level with BJP as its copartner. At present there are coalition governments at the Centre and in some of the States. There have always been pulls and counter pulls in a coalition partnership are parties ally and break alliances on minor issues. Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu with her AIADMK toppled the Atal Behari Vajpayee government which fell only by one vote. All this is presenting a sad state of affairs and is putting the country to the peril of frequent elections which the economy of the country can ill-afford. Therefore, it is necessary that some such reforms in the election process should be formulated which may guarantee a five-year term of the government, at the same time minimize expenditure of the election process; guarantee against defections from one party to another and bring about an elimination of ‘independents’ contesting elections, as, as and when they win they remain vulnerable to money power and get purchased by a party to form a majority and then get portfolio in the government of their choice. Money power has begun to play a big role in elections and recently held Rajya Sabha elections has exposed this malady in a chronic shape where cross-voting across party lines was witnessed on a large scale.
Thus the Election Commission as well as the government has been set thinking on electoral reforms of a far-reaching consequence. It has also been found time and again how bogus voting or impersonalized voting or by the use of muscle power to stop voters, not favorable, from casting their votes. All these lacunae have been witnessed over the years ever since elections started to be held. Further, it has also been found that a candidate having won as the candidate of a particular party, defects to the other party or commits some such act of indiscipline that he is expelled from his original party and then becomes free to join any other party which offers him money and better prospects or position. The A defection law passed during the Rajiv Gandhi reign has also many loopholes of which the defectors h; taken full advantage.
So to begin with, with the reforms the first < foremost should be to put a check on the elect expenses. Thus far there is some accountability on part of the candidate to limit his personal expediting a certain extent but candidates are found spend lavishly claiming thereafter that it was their party that was spending on them or his friends and support have funded the election campaign. Over these o actions, there is no curb and no punishment. The only way to curb such lavish expenditure is to make elections, State controlled in the matte expenditure. There should be funds made available the government, the amount should be reasonable posters and leaflets, voter lists and voter cards she be supplied to the candidates.
Sheshan as Elect Commissioner did a great job in prohibiting wall wail and also the use of loudspeakers except in meetings and that has had a very healthy effect.” Government, after funding the elections, will have to it through its agencies that nothing beyond that am is spent by the candidate in any manner — neither his party nor by his supporters. Limits on holding up meetings should also be fixed — on their number well as on their expenditure. The malady of bogus voting can be eliminated we can be done by issuing a multipurpose card to even voter. Sheshan tried to introduce the identity card sisal hut it could not work or was not allowed to work by par with vested interests who had been winning only with bogus voting engineered through muscle power.
Independent candidates should be banned from contesting elections. Elections could be contested only under the flag and symbol of a recognized party, recognized by the Election Committee. Such independent candidates generally muster support on caste lines and after getting elected open themselves to auction by the highest bidding party. This has been the biggest mal-practice of elections, at present. Once elected on a party symbol, if any one decides to defect himself or along with his group, all those who defect should be made to contest the election afresh. Their earlier election should, ipso facto, be rendered null and void. This would eliminate a lot of horse-trading and mal-practices and stabilize governments. In the eventuality of one of the candidates dying during the elections, the election should not be countermanded, rather the party to which the deceased candidate belonged be given a reasonable time to nominate another candidate in his place, the dates of such election can be adjusted.
Parties should form a pre-coalition before the elections and such coalition should contest the election on a common manifesto. Such coalition partners if at any point of time wish to withdraw from the coalition, such partner members shall have to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate and shall have to declare themselves a coalition partner of some other party which may accept coalition with them. This measure, though may appear to be very stringent at the face of it, but would, to a great extent, eliminate instability of governments. A five years term should be an imperative condition for a government which gets formed.
Strict and more stringent rules should be laid down for bringing a no- confidence vote against the government and those parties which sponsor the no-confidence vote, must first declare their coalition partners, their leader and their numbers to the satisfaction of the Speaker and only after fulfilling these conditions, can a no-confidence vote be tabled. A government should not be made to fall only by one vote without any alternative government ready to take over. Democracy has been accepted by the country as the form of government for the country but do the governments that get formed are really with the verdict of the majority votes? A party with only 40 per cent votes sometimes gets 70 per cent seats while another party with 40 per cent votes may get only 20 per cent seats. Some other method like the method of proportional representation could be worked out to eliminate such anomalies. Rigging at the polling booths with the connivance of the election staff or with the show of fear of muscle power has been still another very great malady with the present election system.
Any attempt at booth capturing should be dealt with very sternly and stringent and deterrent punishment be proposed for such culprits. The former Election Commissioner, Sri M.S. Gill has rightly suggested that those against whom such criminal cases be pending which if decided against them shall entail a minimum five years imprisonment, should be debarred from contesting elections.
Criminalization of politics has become the rule of the day and no party can claim to be free from this malady and menace. This has to be eliminated if the country wants a government which governs. What, therefore is necessary is that neither the government nor the Election Commission on its own, can bring about all these above suggested reforms unless a consensus is reached by all the parties.
For this purpose, all the recognised parties be asked to nominate on their behalf three members and some basic qualifications be laid down for such nominated members — their legal and constitutional ability in particular — and open discussion on all these points be held and any decision taken by this forum by 3/4th majority should be accepted and be enforced; not challengeable in any court of law in any manner. It would be great day if the country can see the sunshine of such a dawn.