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In India, corruption, criminalization of politics and judicial delays are eating into the vitals of democracy. Political parties have become mere election winning instruments, which attempt to interact with citizens only before elections. Centralization of power has resulted in atrophied state structures and cadre-less political parties. To compound the misery of the ordinary electorate,political parties today are practically similar. In this context of depressingly similar characteristics of political parties. The voter has no real choice and the only way through which a political party can get into power is by deploying greater financial resources and by recruiting criminal elements to generate majorities through dubious means. This necessity to deploy financial resources and dependence on criminals to win elections has institutionalized corruption and has engendered criminal-politician nexus.

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As per ElectionCommission estimates 1,500 candidates in the 1996 parliamentary election had criminal records and 40 of them got elected to the 11 th Lok Sabha. In the state legislatures, the picture is even more distressing.Out of the 4,072 sitting MLA’s in all the states, more than 700 have criminal records.Similarly, excessive and illegalexpenditure is the root cause of corruption. Often the election expenditure is 10 to 15 times the legal ceiling prescribed. All over India an estimated Rs 7000 crores is spent for elections to parliamentary and state legislatures in a cycle of five years. This expenditure can be sustained only when the returns are of very high order and the returns can be high only if high levels of corruption are sustained
over long periods of time, resulting in institutionalization of corruption.

India has vibrant civil society and people have enormous faith in democracy. Therefore, the answer lies in mending and pruning the marauders of Indian democracy. Obviously fundamental reforms are required in the electoral system in order to remove the incentives for high and illegitimate expenditure.We need to make honesty and survival compatible in public office.

Believe it or not, but our politicians are not villains; they are victims of a vicious cycle. Parties and politicians do respond to people’s urges and find win-win solutions through systemic reform and institutional change. But informed public pressure is the vital input necessary to catalyze reform. An important process through which this can be achieved is through “Election Watch.” Election Watch is based on the premise that systemic changes can be ushered inthrough people’s collective urges. Parties and politicians desire to win elections and perpetuate their hold on power. If there is informed public pressure for better politics, parties will bring about the necessary reforms. Election Watch is one critical tool for civil society organizations and citizens to pressurize the system for reforms. Elections are exciting and newsworthy for all citizens. Even those who are skeptical of the outcome are enthusiastic in knowing who will win or lose. Election Watch is a creative,non-partisan tool to convert this excitement and enthusiasm into a powerful tool for public education and reform advocacy.

Read about AP Election Watch

 

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