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Mass Communication, Internet and Our Political Parties Electoral Reforms Based On Technology India is a democracy with a billion people and elections spread across the length and breadth of the country call for a marathon task perfected by Election Commission of India over last 60 years. It is no mean achievement to organize the elections spread over a month. Having said that let us not be complacent with the comforting thought that we are the world’s largest and proven democracy. As times change and new technologies make our jobs easier, let us grab the advantages of technology for the benefit of the masses and probity in public life. Web sites of Political Parties: Though disappointed with the experience of attempting to cast my vote as elaborated in my previous blog, I visited the websites of all important parties. While websites of most of the parties provide details of leaders, manifesto and list of candidates, to my surprise CPI (M) and Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena (Raj Thackeray) have given detailed profiles and photographs of candidates contesting elections on their website. Congress website gives history, achievements, organization, manifesto and details of office bearers and list of candidates but does not give detailed profiles of contestants. BJP’s website is extremely user -friendly, informative, enables interaction of voters, provides for blogs to be posted and they even sent a e-mail reminder to those registered to vote on the due date. But this also does not go beyond the list of candidates. NCP’s web site gives details of all office bearers, their ministers, manifesto, etc but gives only list of candidates with no profiles. Telugu Desam, AIDMK, DMK websites are in vernacular languages and so difficult to comment. BSP web site gives list of candidates without profiles. I found only unofficial web site of RJD and therefore not worth any comments (May be their web site is “unofficial” because everything posted on that can be denied if necessary conveniently!). In these days of internet, the political parties can make use of technology to periodically get feedback on perceptions of people about the candidates before & during campaign and take corrective actions in election strategy as well as tactics. They can even provide voters list of their area on their web site well in advance. E-mail campaigns can be undertaken by seeking registration of people on line. I was very happy that I could even post a blog on Mr.L.K.Advani’s site. Some leaders were innovative to use mobile phone technology to address thousands of people in a rally in far away Orissa. Why not then give detailed profiles of your candidates through internet technology? Electoral Reforms Suggested:

The website of Election Commission of India also does not give the details of the candidates only the listing. So is it that even Election Commission of India does not have the basic data? They have all the data before accepting nomination. If they do not capture any data in nomination forms then God save us. The only rationale they may advance is that they do not have adequate staff to enter the data on their computers. This is not valid again because the candidates can be asked to submit data on a non-rewritable CD in standard format instead of scanning an application form. The data on CD has to be verified before accepting nomination and can be uploaded immediately on the website of the Commission. So the logistics of providing data is easily manageable. Following reforms using IT solutions are suggested relating to capture and dissemination of essential information on political parties and candidates to facilitate the voters: 1. All political parties registered with Election Commission of India must have official web sites on which they must disseminate information on candidates contesting elections as well as on performance of elected representatives. 2. At the nomination stage during elections, parties must submit full profile of their candidates in prescribed format on CD to Election Commission and once approved, upload same on their official web site. Election Commission also must do so to ensure authenticity. This must be done within one week of filing nomination before the election. 3. It is duty of Election Commission and political parties to facilitate voters with single point data on candidate with photo, qualification, positions held in public life, achievements, wealth declared, overseas bank accounts (Swiss?) if any in his/her name or family members’ names etc. Candidate must also mention promises to be made to voters other than party’s manifesto during the campaign for specific constituencies so that one can verify the status of achievements periodically. The forms should be designed in such a way that no column can be left blank to get benefit of doubt or ambiguity. It should be clear “yes or no” so that the candidate is accountable and responsible for declarations made by him to election commission. 4. It must be made mandatory to mention at the nomination stage the details of court cases / FIRs pending against the candidates even if not yet charge sheeted or convicted. Let the people be the judge and not the prosecutors or candidates. Nondeclaration must be made punishable offence. As per RTI Act, voters have right to full information on the candidates and therefore Election Commission of India is duty bound to make this information available while accepting nomination of a candidate. 5. In case of independent candidates also, they should have their official web site like political parties and there can be no concession on submission and dissemination of information as above. Alternatively they may be allowed home

pages on officially approved web sites of office of election commission of respective state government giving all the information. 6. A voter elects a candidate based on the programs and policies declared before election. Any switch of party would undermine this premise and therefore would amount to breach of trust. There must be an undertaking by the candidate that he / she will not change, join or switch over to another political party, unless resigns from elected post, till the next election for same position. This will ensure that voters are not short changed and cheated on information and promises given during election process. 7. Provision of positive vote for best candidate and if no candidate is suitable then negative vote for worst candidate with net positive votes polled to decide the winner. ( See my blog “ Indian Elections & Declining Value Systems” dated April 8, 2009 for details) 8. It is duty of the Election Commission of India to ensure uploading of information regarding voting arrangements giving location of polling station, booth number etc well in advance ( at least 10 days before election date) on their websites with powerful search engines to meet the peak demand on election day. 9. Lok Sabha and Delhi State web sites provide good information on work done by the sitting MPs / MLAs. But one does not find web sites like Delhi state assembly for all states to give information on MLAs. It is not enough to give attendance record, number of questions asked and number of debates participated in. Verifiable progress on ground positions of various activities, projects, promises made in manifesto, contributions made in parliament or assembly, work done on various committees etc must be first posted by Lok Sabha / State Assemblies on their web sites and then on the web sites of the parties concerned so that information is available in vernacular languages also. This may be done on continuous basis. Profiles of individual sitting MPs and MLAs must be updated by parties to reflect Lok Sabha / State Assembly report on web site. The parties may give additional information not recorded in Lok Sabha or Assembly proceedings about the candidates on their web sites. 10. The web sites of all the state assemblies must be exhaustive, uniform and standardized in scope of information. Sources for capturing data & information should also be standardized and approved agencies of the government. 11. This should be applicable to Rajya Sabha / upper houses of the states also in similar fashion. 12. Information is power. “Right To Information” is a cornerstone of constitution of India. Empowering voters to take well informed decisions is moral and political duty of all the political parties and stake holders in the process of conduct of free and fair elections. Deliberate denial of information to voters is at best a

strategic breach of trust. Let us use the technology to initiate the change for better. Vijay M. Deshpande Corporate Advisor, Strategic Management Initiative, Pune May 07, 2009

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Mass Communication, Internet & Our Political Parties  

12. Information is power. “Right To Information” is a cornerstone of constitution of India. Empowering voters to take well informed decision...

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