they chose to) between 1991, when they assassinated the
former PM and 1998, when they were convicted. Let me remind
you that the right to stand in elections is not a fundamental
right given to all citizens. It is only a legal one. Holding
a public office is nobody's birthright. Furthermore, if
there is a clash between the people's right to have good
representation and an individual's right to represent the
people, then the society's right should have precedence.
to filter out the corrupt and the criminal, the EC's reforms-roadmap
proposes the barring of all persons against whom courts
have framed chargesheets, at least six months prior to the
announcement of election dates. It is important to note
that unlike the filing of a case against a person, chargesheeting
by a court presumes the application of judicial mind. Even
then, the EC proposals are rather too strict. Why so? Because,
our policing and the prosecuting agencies are routinely
subjected to intense political pressures - it is not too
difficult to harass a genuine candidate with false cases.
As a matter of fact, in India, a majority of accused who
are charge-sheeted in criminal cases are, later, actually
acquitted by the courts.
we have a way out: in 2002, the then Union Government drafted
a Bill providing for the disqualification of only those
persons facing extremely grave charges such as waging war
against India (section 121 of IPC), murder (section 302),
abduction (sections 364 and 364A), rape (section 376), dacoity
(sections 395 and 396) and dealing in narcotics. But this
bill failed to get passed, for want of political consensus.
The Parliament needs to act on this measure right away.
Then we can purge our politics of at least some of the most
its nearly two-dozen proposals, the EC's has also mentioned
the concept of 'none of the above' option for the voters
along with the list of candidates in the ballot. Apparently,
the EC wants to explore the possibility of some kind of
a re-poll, if a large majority among the voters in a constituency
opt for none of the candidates standing in an election.
When the same idea was proposed by the EC just before the
April-May general elections, our lawmakers rejected it,
citing the possibility of undermining of the legitimacy
of the elected candidates. However, the 'none of the above'
voting concept has some validity. Especially because it
offers us citizens the potential to exert 'moral persuasion
and pressure' on the parties to nominate better candidates.
some of you might have correctly noted, these "band-aid"
solutions do not address the deeper, systemic diseases afflicting
our electoral, political and governance processes. As of
today, the 'winnability' is defined as a candidate's ability
to secure a plurality of votes, even if by employing caste
and group clout or money and muscle power. As long as our
elections rest on this definition, any epidermal changes
to the rules would, at best, result in only marginal improvement
in the quality of candidates nominated and elected. That
is precisely why, our lawmakers must also work towards providing
a robust justice delivery mechanism and eliminating political
interference over the investigating and prosecuting arms
of the government. Otherwise, our highly perverted electoral
system keeps promoting hardened criminals, money launderers,
caste leaders and modern feudal lords into legislative and
executive positions of influence, election after general
certainly deserves better. What India needs are fundamental
electoral and political reforms that can cut right through
the thicket of symptomatic problems and reach out to the
heart of the systemic problems. We need these changes immediately
and urgently. Fortunately, the political developments in
the recent months have been remarkably able to focus everyone's
attention on the need for such core improvements. The Chief
Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy is right: this is
a historic opportunity. Let us make full use of it.