In many ways, India’s efforts at democracy have been an amazing success. Despite low levels of literacy and human development, vast social divisions, and a massive population, India has remained relatively stable, peaceful, and democratically governed. However, due to the pressing (and often divisive) concerns of the many demographic groups in India and the increasing distrust that the electorate has for its leadership, major reasons for concern about Indian democracy still exist.
MONEY POWER. According to a recent study by CSDS, money is a key factor in Indian elections. Although the 122 candidates studied ranged from “Super Rich” to “Lower Middle” class, All major parties preferred to back the richer candidates who could fund their own election expense. When the relative success of these candidates is examined, the real advantage of money power becomes clear. Of the candidates who secured their deposits by winning at least one sixth of the votes, 87% were Very Rich or Super Rich.
In addition, these two groups, representing between 1-2% of the Indian public together, dominated the elections as winners and runners-up in most cases . Of the winners themselves, in 23 out of 24 constituencies, the seat went to a Super Rich, Very Rich or Rich candidate. The Super Rich had an incredible success rate- 7 out of 10 candidates won. MUSCLE POWER Muscle power in elections is possibly an even more alarming factor in Indian politics. Across the country, we find trends of increasing numbers of candidates and 8 elected officials with criminal backgrounds.
According to one newspaper in 1997, at least 40 members of the Lok Sabha and about 700 of the 4000 plus legislators in various states were “either history sheeters or had been charge sheeted in criminal case” . Party Corruption- Solution: Democratization of Parties Party corruption is, more than all of these other concerns, a problem that may not be so easily addressed through electoral reform alone. In addition, career politicians could retain power indefinitely by having high positions on party lists, and therefore, be nearly impossible to vote out of office.
The Green party in Germany has attempted to minimize this problem by rotating the positions of candidates on party lists in each election, but the problem can persist without such internal efforts of parties . However, this increased power given to parties and party officials is accompanied by increased accountability of parties to voter. If parties go too far in any of these practices, they could potentially lose seats across the state or the nation in favor of smaller but more honest parties. While the increased checks of voters in a MMR systems could prevent certain actions by parties, this process may not be enough in the short term.
A new MMR electoral system in India would best be accompanied by political party reforms in terms of nominations, funding, and democratic internal functioning. The best types of reforms and methods of implementation are a separate and equally intricate topic as that of electoral reform, and are equally necessary to ensure democracy in India. Separation of power In order to guard against what one of the Founding Fathers called an “excess of democracy,” the Constitution was built with many ways to limit the government’s power.
Among these methods were separating the three branches, splitting the legislature so laws passed are carefully considered, and requiring members of Congress to meet certain criteria to qualify for office. Separation of power was very effective; The three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are kept separate, and each has different powers. Congress has legislative, or law making, powers; the President has the power to carry out, or execute, the laws; and the Judicial branch had the judging power, used to interpret the laws.
In addition, each branch is able to restrain or balance the powers of the other two branches upon power abuse. If the President is suspected of unlawful acts, he can be impeached, or tried by the House and Senate for misusing his power. The limitations on and difficulties of law passing are very, very important. The split legislature creates a more complicated maze through which laws must find their way before being passed. First, a law must be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, the former having sole power to introduce laws concerning revenue.
Towards free and fair elections in India When the Commission discharges its obligation of implementing the law, political parties are accusing it of throttling democracy; there is a danger of our democracy being hijacked by the demon of unaccounted wealth earned unscrupulously and spent to grab power; unscrupulous candidates are hijacking elections with their money power; nobody who has closely watched the scenario all these years can say money and liquor do not play a part in the elections; the value of hard cash, liquor and goodies seized in Karnataka was Rs. 5. 57 crore; if muscle power is employed in poorer States, it is money power in richer States; and if we do not want our democracy hijacked by unaccounted wealth, we should sit up and take notice before it is too late. These revelations clearly demonstrate that the Election Commission is helpless and unable to initiate concrete action to curb criminalisation of politics which primarily implies the use of money and muscle power by politicians.
State funding of elections. Despite occasional hiccups if the Indian democracy has acquired the image of a vigorous and vibrant form of government, it has also earned the sobriquet of money and muscle-driven democracy. Quite true and troubling description of our electoral process in some cases, the right thinking people and parties are of the strong opinion that State-funding of elections would go a long way in minimising the insidious influence of both money and muscle power in our otherwise. quite fair and free conduct of elections.
The extent to which money power has become the driving force in elections, it is not irrelevant and irreverent to say that most candidates with limited means at their disposal find themselves handicapped and victims of denial of level playing ground. This amounts to negation of equal opportunity to one and all, as far as elections are concerned. In order to overcome this obvious flaw and disadvantage, State-funding of elections is one way that should be fully explored and worked out.
No doubt, State-funding of elections is one of the most immediate and urgent electoral reforms that are required to cleanse the system that has become money-centric. While the idea is good, there are some imponderables that may crop us during the course of raising funds by the Central and State governments, the distribution of such funds, whether in cash or kind, among a plethora of parties, both national as well as regional. State-funding has also its limitations with multiple parties and candidates.
Since the elections have become a very expensive affair, State- funding may not help much in arresting the rot that results from excessive flow of money expenditure that candidates tend to spend in the hope of making much more money or assets once they get elected. Even if the State-funding is only in kind, such as free supply of electoral/publicity material, diesel, petrol, vehicles etc. , the expenses incurred by parties, friends, relatives of a candidate, may defeat the very intent and purpose of the proposition.
But still, with all these apprehensions lurking, there is no harm in hammering out a way so that State-funding of elections gets a start, with the hope that the initiative would prove a healthy step in the right direction. Conclusion First, the problems of election based violence, corruption, polling irregularities, criminalization and self- interested money power would all be dealt a severe blow by proportional representation.
All of these elements would be disastrous to a campaign where the statewide or nationwide support of the party is at stake. Unlike in the current system where national opinion is only of minor importance in elections, a drop in popularity of a party for any of the above reasons would result in a corresponding drop in the number of seats in the legislature.