Political parties not serious about removing electoral corruption: Former CEC Quraishi

Naz Asghar

Aug 26, 2020

New Delhi: Expressing disappointment that ”political parties were not serious about ending electoral corruption, former chief election commissioner of India Dr SY Quraishi on Wednesday said it was high time that public funding of elections was introduced.

But public funding should be for poiltical parties but not for individual candidates, otherwise it would result in many bogus aspirants jumping into election fray, Quraishi said in an exclusive interview to Indian News Stream.

” I am surprised that I have been talking about it for the last seven years but no political party has yet formally come out in support of it or even to debate it seriously, ” he said.

” I rather feel they enjoy this confusion and they create this confusion,” he added.

After public funding is introduced, the account of political parties should be audited by the CAG as that would take care of corruption.

”All private donations should be banned because if you start taking money from big corporates, they would naturally want their return in the form of licences and permits, transfers and postings of officers as suits their interest,” the former chief election commissioner said.

Another electoral reform Quraishi advocated was the introduction of proportional representation or the mixture of the first past the post system and proportional representation.

Admitting that earlier he himself was a votary of the first past the post system, as he found it most simple and practical, he said that he changed his views after the 2014 elections in which the BSP got 20 per cent vote share but zero seats. A party getting so many votes but remaining unrepresented in Parliament was certainly not acceptable in a democracy, he added.

Replying to a question, he also expressed himself against the proposal of making voting compulsory, saying it was unconstitutional, and stressed that democracy and compulsion do not go together.

”Your right to vote includes your right not to vote. Interestingly in several of its judgements, the Supreme Court has said that right to vote is not a Constitutional right, whereas in the NOTA case, it has said right not to vote is fundamental right because it is the right to freedom of expression, and they have elevated it to higher than your right to vote.

Secondly, he added, compulsory voting is not practical in a country like India, beacsue if a large number of people do not vote, like in the last elections 30 crore people did not exercise this right, then legal proceedings have to be initiated against them, and one could imagine the scenario created by this additional amount of litigation when already two crore cases were pending in courts.

Former CEC of India Dr SY Quraishi in conversation with India News Stream editor Naz Asghar

 

On a question regarding dissatisfaction of some groups over delimitation of electoral constituencies, he said that the issue was taken note of by the Sachar Committee first, and complaints have come from minority groups and sceduled castes that the way delimitation has been done has harmed their interest. When delimitation commission is holding public meetings etc, these groups should proactively participate in it and present their case.

Quraishi suggested one amendment in the Election Commission rules, according to which constituencies having highest population of any disadvataged groups should be reserved, like in the case of Scheduled Tribes. But in the case of Scheduled castes, the Election Commission uses its discretion in chosing a reserved constituency, keeping it rotating, he pointed out.

When asked whether the coming Bihar elections being held in the prevailing Covid atmosphere would be fair and smooth, and would provide equal playing field to all stakeholders, big or small, Quraishi said that he did not see any problem in conducting elections in the current situation, pointing out that a number of other countries, including India’s own neighbour Sri Lanka, had sucessfully accomplished this exercise.

As far the level playing field was concerned, the technological advantage has always been there with big political parties having massive resources, he said giving exmaple of the hightech campaign launched by parties like the ruling BJP.

Replying to a question on his own personal contribution to the Election Commission which he served from 2010 to 2012, he said he had tried to restrict the use of money power and enhaace awareness among voters to remove voter apathy, creating two new divisions in the Commission, one for monitoring expenditure and one for creating voter awareness. However effective control over money power is still elusive while there has been success in increasing voter turn out in successive elections.( Pls watch the video below for complete interview)

—India News Stream