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Sequence of Activities of AP Election Watch 2004

  1. Training of Trainers, resource persons and volunteers
  2. Voter registration and Electoral rolls revision
  3. Campaign against criminalization
  4. Voter Awareness campaign
  5. Debates between candidate
  6. Pre and Post polling surveys

 

Some of the key activities proposed to be undertaken as part of APEW'04 are outlined below:
I. Training of Trainers, resource persons and volunteers
We have already initiated the process of involving Lok Satta volunteers across the state in the electoral rolls revision process, which was held between 27th November-5th December. From among them, we propose to train 50 Senior-trainers for the larger EW effort. We will conduct a 2-day training session for the trainers (scheduled to be held in Warangal on the 20th and 21st of December). These trainers in turn will train 294 constituency coordinators, one for each assembly constituency. We are also aiming to train 80 -100 volunteers (total 25,000) in each assembly constituency to implement various EW activities. The training of volunteers at the grassroots level will be undertaken as part of the Active Citizen Training programme.
II. Voter registration and Electoral rolls revision
The Election Commission is undertaking summary revision of voter rolls across the country between the 27th November and 15th of December. Volunteers of Lok Satta are assisting the voters and officials in the registration and revision process across AP and in fact this effort is already underway. We are aiming to set up help booths in at least 600 mandals spread across the state, which will be manned by Lok Satta volunteers. This effort will be undertaken entirely with volunteer support and FDR funds.

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III. Campaign against criminalization
a. Screening of potential candidates for criminal/corrupt record

This is an activity that had the greatest impact on public imagination during our 1999 EW effort. We propose to undertake a similar effort this time also, but with a few critical changes. Earlier, we collected information on criminal antecedents of candidates and made it public and also made a plea to the parties not to field any candidates with criminal record. It did have a significant impact as the major parties did drop a significant number of candidates. As a result no new candidates entered the political arena, even though entrenched candidates who have struck deep political roots continued to be in the fray. This time, we propose to go one step ahead and ensure that such entrenched candidates with criminal/corrupt record are not fielded by major parties and thereby reverse the process of criminalization. We will caution the parties well in advance that if they field any candidates with a criminal record, we will ask the people not to vote for them. Given FDR/Lok Satta's clout and support base in the state, we are confident that the parties will respond to our notice positively. The various tasks associated with this activity are publicity seeking information on criminal record of candidates, airing radio and TV messages, screening of collected information etc.

We propose to use the following channels for collecting information of candidates' criminal antecedents:

  1. Utilize the wide newspaper network in the state.
  2. Solicit information from the public through PO Box 100.
  3. Tap confidential sources in police and government.

A screening committee consisting of eminent jurists, former police officials and civil society activists will evaluate the information collected. The following will be the criteria for evaluating the criminal record of candidates:

  1. Conviction in any case
  2. Charges framed by a magistrate
  3. Rowdy sheet and/or History Sheet
  4. Withdrawal of charges, or closure of a rowdy sheet etc. by the government without any explanation, proving a malafide intent during the past 7 years.
  5. Established use of force in government or private tenders
  6. Established cases of settlement of land or other disputes by force and forcible occupation of land.
  7. Defaults to financial institutions or role in collapse of urban co-op banks, chit funds or other financial institutions (including dependent members of the family).
  8. Dismissal/ Punishment awarded while in government for corruption or malfeasance, or pending disciplinary proceedings.
  9. Indictment by statutory committee of enquiry.

The information so collected will be collated in a proper format and after appropriate screening by the committee will be sent to the political parties and also disseminated to the public widely.

b. District level public meetings

We propose to adopt a multi-pronged approach in our efforts to reverse the criminalization process and focus people's attention on the larger electoral and governance reform goals. We intend to do this through a combination of mass contact programmes, cultural performances and media capsules. As part of this effort, senior functionaries of FDR/Lok Satta will hold public meetings in all the 23 districts of the state. The mass communication and cultural performances are elaborated in the subsequent section.

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IV. Voter Awareness campaign

We propose to undertake a massive voter awareness campaign with the following specific aims:

a. To encourage voters to go out and vote - this will be done primarily through public broadcasting messages in various forms.
b. Encouraging people not to vote for criminal candidates - as outlined earlier, this will be the core focus of the campaign and will be done through a variety of mass communication channels.
c. Asking people not to sell their votes - one of the paradoxes of Indian polity is that the voter is seeking money to vote and the politicians are compelled to buy their votes. This is being done as the voter largely feels that no matter who wins, he is ending up losing and therefore he might as well maximize his short-term gains. We will endeavour to show the voter the link between his vote and well-being and make him realize the importance his vote.
d. Create awareness about tendered vote procedure - thanks to Lok Satta's advocacy, the State Election Commission has made repoll mandatory (during the local government elections in 2000) if tendered votes in any polling booth exceed 2 % of the votes cast. We will create awareness on this procedure and ask people to exercise this option, in case, someone else has already cast their vote.
e. Set the agenda for good governance through Right to Information, Citizen's Charters, Empowerment of Local Governments and Local Courts. As you are aware, the union government has recently enacted a law on Right to Information. The law is yet to be implemented as the appropriate rules are not framed. Thanks to FDR/Lok Satta's advocacy citizen's charters with compensation were introduced for the first time in the country in case of the municipalities. Subsequently, the government has introduced similar charters in other departments. Thanks to the massive campaign launched by Lok Satta for local government empowerment, the government was forced to concede our demands and has initiated measures for substantial devolution. We drafted a model legislation for local courts and sent it to the government for its consideration. On all these issues we aim to create public awareness.

On all these issues, we propose to print posters, pamphlets, produce videos and radio messages for public broadcasting. We already have some videos from the 1999 effort and we will produce a few more to suit the current requirements. In addition, we propose to organize 1-2 cultural performances on the above issues in each constituency. The cultural performances will be funded through the Active Citizen's Training programme, which is already supported by the Trust.

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V. Debates between candidates

a. Common platforms at the assembly constituency level

The biggest chunk of support we are seeking is for this specific activity. Similar to our earlier efforts, we will endeavour to bring all major contesting candidates in at least 250 constituencies onto a common platform to debate issues of public concern. In a majority of the constituencies these debates will be broadcast live on local cable channels. In the event that the parliamentary elections are held simultaneously, we will try to hold common platforms in all the 42 parliamentary constituencies.

Rationale for conducting common platforms:

i.) To drive home the point that no matter which party or candidate wins, the focus should be on good governance.
ii.) Highlight issues of good governance such as local government empowerment, local courts, right to information, citizen's charters etc.
iii.) Introduce the idea of accountability of public servants to citizens. Normally, during campaign time politicians are used to making all sorts of promises to the people, knowing fully well that very rarely they are asked to stick to their promises. Therefore a majority of them got used to making irresponsible promises on poll-eve as no one holds them accountable. We will aim to caution the candidates in public that we will watch their performance and hold them accountable and also create in people's minds that it is their duty to keep watch on their representatives' actions.
iv.) Change the nature of public discourse and campaigns. In light of the recently enacted law on Political Funding (copy enclosed), all electronic media, including cable and private channels are mandated to provide free air-time to all recognized political parties on an equitable basis. We wish to use this golden opportunity and promote the idea of such debates on a national scale. In fact we have interacted with the EC and senior officials of Doordarshan and they responded favourably to ou
r suggestion.

Through this exercise, FDR/Lok Satta aims to set an example that could be emulated across the country and bring a fundamental transformation in the way campaigns are held and also impact the very nature of public discourse.

b. Chief Ministerial debate

During the 99'EW effort, even though we tried to hold a debate between the two main chief ministerial candidates, we were able to get only the senior functionaries of the parties and not the main candidates themselves. Even then, the debate was a resounding success and was broadcast live by all local cable channels in Hyderabad city. This time we will again endeavour to bring the main chief ministerial candidates and hold a debate largely on the lines of US presidential debates.

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VI. Monitoring of polling process

On the polling day, Lok Satta volunteers will set up help booths at major polling centers and recognized trouble spots and assist the voters and officials in the polling process. This activity will primarily be driven through voluntary efforts, local resources and in kind support.

VII. Pre and Post polling surveys

a. Pre- poll surveys of voter rolls

As you are aware, the voter rolls in the country are deeply flawed. As opposed to many countries where the responsibility for registering to vote lies with the voter, in India, it is left to the Election Commission to prepare a list of all eligible voters and delete the names of those who either moved out of the locality or are dead. Given the apathy of the government machinery, and the inaccessible nature of the voter registration process, over a period of time huge discrepancies crept into the voter rolls. The errors in the rolls are primarily of two kinds, I) errors of omission, i.e. names of people that ought to be there on the list are not there and ii) errors of commission, i.e. names of those people that ought not be there are not deleted. On its own initiative Lok Satta conducted a survey of voter rolls on a pilot basis in parts of 2 assembly constituencies in Hyderabad city. The pilot survey, which covered approximately 8500 voters, indicated that there are 48 % errors in the voter rolls! Based on the results of the pilot survey, FDR/Lok Satta undertook a much larger sample survey across the state. The scientifically conducted survey showed that in urban areas there are 45% errors (26 % wrongly included and 19 % excluded) and in rural areas there are 15 % errors (10 % wrongly included and 5 % excluded) (The Jan-Feb 2001 issue of Lok Satta Times which covered the issue in detail is enclosed). The sample survey covered approximately 40,000 voters. Given the demographic profile of India, where approximately 45 % of the population is below 18 years of age, on average 55 % of the population should be registered as voters. But overall percentage of electors is 63.35%! In states like Tamil Nadu, AP and Karnataka, the percentage of electors is above 70 %.

Based on the results of the survey, FDR/Lok Satta made a passionate plea to the Election Commission to undertake: a) comprehensive revision of electoral rolls and b) make the voter registration process much more accessible by making post office as the nodal agency. Subsequently we interacted with the EC and the postal department to make this a reality and fortunately, both of them agreed in principle and just in the last month, the EC has formally met with the postal department and initiated the process to make the post office the nodal agency for voter registration.

Similar to our earlier survey conducted in 1999, which has conclusively established the serious flaws in the electoral rolls, we propose to take up pre poll sample-survey of voter rolls encompassing a sample size of approximately 100,000 voters across the state covering both rural and urban areas.

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b. Post-polls surveys

Given the nature of elections, and the defects in our voter rolls, bogus voting is rampant across the country. Every one talked about it, but none had any authentic data on the scale of the problem. Immediately after the general elections in 1999, with the help of a few "marked electoral rolls", FDR/Lok Satta undertook a post-poll survey of voters to ascertain whether those who are marked as voted have actually voted or not. The survey was conducted in 5 polling stations covering 4000 voters and it showed that approximately 21.7 % of the votes cast are bogus!

Even with the introduction of voter ID cards, things haven't improved much. The experience of our friends in Calcutta, who organized West Bengal Election Watch during the Municipal Corporation elections in 2001, cast some light on this problem. They have set up a help line and approximately 40 % of the calls they received are those complaining that their votes were already cast. This only shows that even with ID cards, it is difficult to stop bogus voting as long as there is collusive corruption in the voting process.

Similar to our 1999 survey, we propose to undertake a post-poll sample survey on a much larger scale to ascertain the extent of bogus voting. Thanks to our large volunteer base, we will be able to do it within a fraction of the normal cost associated with such a survey.

Quantitative Indicators to evaluate the impact of AP Election Watch 2004:

  1. During 1999 Election Watch, we have made public a list of 45 candidates with criminal record. That list was compiled using a narrower criteria for evaluation. For EW ' 04, we are adopting much broader criteria as outlined earlier, which should result in much more stringent evaluation.
  2. Major political parties should not nominate any new candidates with criminal/corrupt record and we will also make a major push for the parties not to field even the established candidates with a criminal/corrupt record.
  3. Through the common platforms and candidate debates, we aim to achieve the following in the near-term:
    • Irrespective of the electoral outcome, we hope to see significant devolution of powers and empowerment of local governments.
    • Have citizen's charters in all local governments in addition to other major public services with a provision for compensation.
    • Enact appropriate rules for implementation of Right to Information law, with a provision for compensation for non-disclosure.
    • Democratization of management of agricultural market committees.
    • Local courts for speedy justice must be established.
  4. At the national-level, post office should be made the nodal agency for voter registration in the next 1-2 years.
  5. The campaign must result in TV networks being utilized for effective debates between the candidates, very much in line with the American Presidential debates. It must result in equitable allocation of time to recognized political parties by public and private media as envisaged in the newly enacted law on political funding.
  6. The disclosure of candidate details must lead to serious research in the medium and long-term. Civil society organizations must be able to compare the financial information disclosed by the candidates with the reality on the ground. If any discrepancies are noticed in the disclosures of any major party candidates, that must become a major point of advocacy to mobilize public opinion and pressurize parties to avoid nominating candidates with dubious financial record.

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FDR/Lok Satta contribution:

In this Election Watch campaign, FDR/Lok Satta contribution will primarily be in the form of volunteer time and effort. Across the state, more than 25,000 volunteers will be participating in the campaign. In addition, we will endeavour to get free airtime on various electronic media outlets to air the broadcast capsules that will be prepared for the campaign. The monetary value of such airtime will easily run into millions of rupees. Two key activities, namely assisting the voter registration process and monitoring of the polling process on the polling day, which are both heavily volunteer dependent, will be primarily undertaken at our cost. Screening of potential candidates and campaign against criminalization will be undertaken largely with Lok Satta resources and efforts, except those items for which financial support is sought. The first meeting of the screening committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge and Law Commission Chairman, Justice BP Jeevan Reddy, has been already conducted to finalize the criteria for assessing the criminal antecedents of potential candidates.

Activities
Schedule
Screening Committe Members
Screening Criteria
Letter to Political Parties
Impact of Election Watch 99
   

 

 

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