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Election Commission of India

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SYQuraishi IDEA EXCHANGE 'Atone point of time, I thought we were losing the battle against money power, which depressed me. That didn't happen' P5

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MAY 2011


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'Atone point during the polls, Ithought we were losing the battle to money power. That didn't happen' 1

Fresh from the success of conducting five assembly elections, chief election commissioner S Y Quraishi was at the Expressfor an Idea Exchange. In this session moderated by consulting editor Seema Chishti, Quraishi speaks about elections being the source of corruption, the worthiness ofEVMs and the scale of Indian elections ______-------->L--------SEEMA CHISHTI: Can you recall one nastymomentlntherecentstateassembly polls when you were worried and scared thatthingsmayfallapart? These were very difficult elections to conduct in the sense that at least two states were particularly difficult: West Bengal had its law and order problem. It has hada history of political violence. Prior to the elections, people warned us that a civil war kind of situation prevailed there, so we had to be very careful.lnTamilNadu, wewere very worried about the money power because during the Thirumangalam byelection, gross violations were reported and that was the model being feared. So we planned most for these twostates. Keralawaseasy, sowas Puducherry.Assamhada bit of a problem in thatit had its own militancy-related issues, the border issues and law and order issues, but we deal with these issues day in and day out. ,

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SEEMACHISHTI:OneparticuIarlncident ormomentthatreallyworriedyou? At one point of time, I thought we werelosingthebattleagainstmoney power, which depressed me. My colleagues assured me that it was not the case. If we had losttomoneypower, it would have been very serious for the country; because, as I have said before, elections have become the root of all corruption in India. It may sound paradoxical and shocking for an Election Commissioner to say this, but if someone spends say ~2-5crore, beyond his means to fight an election, naturally he would want to recover that money. This is the real basis of corruption in India and we need to check it.Itis notfornothing that the law has prescribed a ceiling on

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Election Commission of India THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

NAME OF THE NEWS PAPER eiecnon expenditure. his from UO-lakh to U6lakh for assemblyelections and from f25 to f40 lakh fQr parliamentary . elections. Wehave informati, m.that it is violated with impunity. Wetry oar best to catch the violators and they try ,---"-----their best to hoodwink us so there is a constant tug~ofwar. Sometimes -we win sometimes we lose. This is ~ very serious issue. However, I am personally satisfied, that the very people who were being offered money, saris and dhotis, ere ones who complained to us.

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that people are getting increasingly fed up, It is unfortunate that a situation developed where Anna Hazhad to go on a fast. We do need a Lokpal to check corruption at the highest level, butthatisnotgoingtotackle the problem of corruption completely. What will the'mkpal do? Out of thousands of people, he would identify a few corrupt yeople and hound them out. We are . saying that in the first place, don't allow the J:Ol"rupt to come to power. Why do we allow .~. them to fight elections? Debar criminals from contesting elections, check money power by self-discipline and cooperating with the Election Commission. 'Tahrir Square' has become part of everyday expression even inIndia, whichisscary. Why has Jantar Mantar become ~,-ara1lYingpointwhenbarelyafewhundredmetres away,we have Parliament? That is where major decisions of policy and governance should take place. Incidentally, ECIheadquartersisbetweenthesetwoplaces. Ithinkthis isa wake-up callandwe should wake uptoit.

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COOMI KAPOOR: Is this money power more in the south than in the north because the states you have highlighted are mostly in the south. Earlier you spoke of AndhraPradesh. Wecannot generalise. It is across the country in varying degrees. For instance, in Chennai, ___ everypoliticalpartyexpressed concern about money power.In Thiruvananthapuram, however,politicalpartiessaidtherewasnomoney power problem. We found that very interesting: Kerala and Tamil Nadu share a long border,but in Kerala we were told by all political parties that the voters are very perceptive. Theydecide in theirminds who they are going to vote for, and money is not going to change their minds, so why waste money? I think that's the best check on money power. In Kerala, moneywasnotanissueforusatall, whereas in Tamil Nadu, it was giving us sleepless nights. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka also haveworrisomemoneypower. COOMI KAPOOR: And what is the going rateforan~? Youmean what amount they spend on elections?It is impossible toquantify. It can only be anecdotal. In private conversations, MPs and MLAshave told us they spend f2-5 crore and more! But we require evidence. What is discussed in seminars and conferences cannot becomea basis for legal action. What we try to do is catch the money that is used: how many cars are deployed, how many public meetings havebeenconducted,etc.Butwhatgoesonprivately, how much money changes hands is anecdotal. This time we have done something new, starting with the Bihar assembly elections: a few months before the election, we set up an expenditure monitoring division, whichwillmonitorthemoneypowerthroughout the year. Weunleashed the entire income taxmachinery,intelligence,airintelligenceto keep an eye on the money power and that has paiddividends.ItworkedwellinBihar, wefmetuneditand implemented it in the recent polls.

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MANOJ C G: In the run up to the elections, did you feel that the expenditure ceiling has become meaningless and it should be done away with? There is a goodreasonwhythe law has provided for a ceiling. If there is no ceiling, money will play havoc. Then the common man will have no chance of contesting elections, Not to have a ceiling is a dangerous proposition. We have been asking that the power to fIXa rationalceilingshould bewith us-inconsultation with political parties. Wewrote tothelaw ministry that the last ceiling was fIXedin 1995-96 andjustbytherateofinflation,UOJakhwillbe

peoplepartlcipatedin the elections. When 77% people are livingon such low incomes, can they choose the right representatives? We cannot assume that poor people are not smart enough to vote. The voters of India are t?esmartestintheworld.Askthepoliticalparties when they loseelections. Voters know that e~en if they do not have money, they have the nghttovote,andtheyknowhowtouseit. RAKESH SINHA: Which of the next state elections requires special attention? There is a bunch of five states going into elec:--:tionsby early next year. The biggest is Uttar :Pradesh, which is one-Ilfth of India and it has itsownissues.ltisaverydifficultstate butlast time ithad perfect elections. WeareoPtimiStic thatitwill beagoodelection. Punjab can be another difficult state--it has a lot of money and ithasa bit of muscle power too.Wehave to deal with the ground reality of every state, specifically and very carefully. Uttarakhand is quite uncomplicated. Gaa again is a small state but has huge money power. Manipur has its own problems .

VANDITAMISHRA: As CEC, how do you look at protests against corruption-like Anna Hazare's fast and Swami Ramdev's fast next month-particularly in view of the fact that right after Hazare's fast, the five states that went to the polls registered highervoterturnoutthanearlie~ It's a fact that India has a lot of corruption and

U61akhtoday.Butwhatistherationallimitisa subjectofpublicdebate.Incidentally,MPsand MIAs report heir expenditure well within the ceiling even if they may have spent ten times more. So,theoretically, even this ceiling isnotbeingused.

* SANYASHARMA: Why has the Election Commission not yet redommended statefunding of elections as recommended by theindrajit Gupta Committee. Weare not recommending it, we are opposing it. EvenIndrlijitGuptaCommitteesaidpartial-' state funding can be considered provided there is total inner-party democracy and transparency of political funding. There is hardly any inner-party democracy. We have been demanding that alldonations topolitical parties should be by cheque and all transactionsbythemshouldbe bycheque,whichisnot happening. So,they mustfulfill the first criteria of the Gupta committee. I particularly oppose it because it is not the obvious, legal expenditure we are talking about. Everybody is reporting 60-70%of the ceiling. State funding will mean that much more money will becomeavallablefor clandestine use.There isno guarantee that black money will be stopped. VANDITAMISHRA: What role can the EC play so that parties comply with their promise of inner-party democracy? After money power,our next concern is party functioning, their fmancing. Weare going to monitor it strictly now.Inner-party demoeracyshouldbeaconditionforpartyregistration, but unfortunately, we have no power to deregister parties. The time has come for the country to give us that power and for us to use whatever power we have to address the issue. • SEEMA KUSHWAHA: The Arjun Sengupta Committee says 77% of Indians live on '(20 a day. On the other hand, over 60%

SEEMA CmSHTI: Do you think simultaneous national and assembly elections isa good idea? I think ~e time has come for this to be taken ve~ senously. It will defmitely make it better. ~tIally: the Constitution framers had visualised sunultaneous elections. But if a state government falls prematurely, then what do ~ou.do? That is why elections started happeningm between and wehad staggered elections. ~dnow~oneypowerisnotjustastrainonus, It ISa stram on political parties as well. They are also extremely concerned. Let there be simultaneous elections. It will savea lot of moneyandharassmentof the people. Dll..IP BOBB: What are the electoral reforms you would liketo seedone? One, we want criminals debarred from con-

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-.----~~~~~==~========~~Z~9~ ewant oiminals debarredfrom oontesting elections. As of now, tbe~rbecomesthe Jaw-makel.~political ~ have rejeeted,ANr.I ••••••• ridt their reasoning is simple: they say that in polities, false cases are beingfiled thetime. Second, tbeysaythatthelawof the land is that unless oonviimw~' you are innocent But the reaIitf of the Indian situation· that aatin.ti· on takes J5:.30years. Sowehavefo~a out

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testing elections. As of now, the law-breaker becomes the law-maker. It is playing havoc with the polity.Allpoliticalpartieshaverejected our proposal and their reasoning is simple: theysaythatinpolitics,falsecasesmay befiled by the rivals. If somebody is disqualified on thatbasis, itisnotfair. Second, theysaythatthe lawofthelandisthatunlessconvicted,youare innocent. But the reality of the Indian situation is that conviction takes 15-20years and till then,aseriousoffendercontinuestobeinpower.Sowe have to fmd a way out. At least in the case of serious offences, heinous offences, which will lead to imprisonment~fiveyears ormoreandwherethecourtoflawhasftamed charges,let the person be debarred. After all, 1akhsof undertrials in prison are deprived of three fundamental r-ights=of liberty, movement and occupation. Right to contest is not a fundamental right. The second reform proposal is fmancial transparency and accountability: all political partydonationsandexpenditureshouldbeby cheque. It should be audited by an auditor approved byCAG,itshould beputupona website so that everyone can see. Today;a ~te house givesyou a donation andnextvMk you givethem alicence, so peoplewill be able to see whetherthereisanexus. MANOJ C G: At least half the recognised parties have raised doubts about electronic voting machines (EVMs). Why is there a reluctance to lookintotheissue?

There is no reluctance at all. Up to 95% of th e parties, barring one or two (who said gob~ck to the ballotpaper), feel the machines are fme while suggesting that we should consider a voter-verifiable paper trail. Wehave referred the matter to the independent committee of experts. A committee of five is examining it. Wehave told our companies to start developing prototypes of such machines. The expert committee will examine and make recommendations. No one is more bothered about sparency an f . of elections than 1heElection Commission of India, which has been mandated by the Constitution to safeguardthis. MANU PUBBY: can you talk a bit about you collaboration with foreign countries. Indian elections are a brand, which has great respect worldwide. Every week we get a delegation from some country or the other. They want to know our secret, our magic. Wedo not have any magic. Wejusthavea verygoodfoundation laid by the Constitution framers and built on by the legislation with the support of political parties._You know the sheer of our elections? Wehave more voters than m all 50countries of Europeputtogether, plus in all 20 countries of South America put together. And the complexity of these 70countries all rolled togetherintoone. Wehavetensions,co~tlicts,electionfrauds,militancy;goondagardz, dadagiri, everything rolled into one.When we conduct elections smoothly and declare theresults in 12hours, it'samarvel.

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Weare doing lots of things with our neighbouring countries. Bhutan, for instance, is a new democracy and they have chosen theIndian model after considering several options. They used our machines, they used our technology,our system. Nepal used our machines and the procedures also.Wehavebeenconsulted by Egypt and Kenya. We have decided to share our experiences with emerging democracies. Weare setting up an institute called the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management and the very first course for the Kenyan trainees is starting at the end of Junethisyear. MANOJ C o.wm compulsory voting work inIndia? No, not at all, because compulsion and democracydonotgotogether.Thedecisionto not vote is also your decision. Wehave setup a voters education division, which takes up very systematic voter education campaigns using social marketing principles to deal with voter apathy. Through this strategy, we have achieved consistent increase in voter participation in last seven elections, including historic records in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Even practically it is impossible to have compulsory voting. In the last generalelectionS,300millionpeopledidnotvote. If it is made compulsory and you are a violator, you are inconflictwith thelawand wewill have tome cases-3O-crore new cases in an already overburdened legal system.

* SANYASHARMA: Should there be an option of voting for 'none of the above'? We have already written to the government thatthere should be an option for 'none of the above'. For two reasons: one, if you don't want to vote, you should not be exposed. To guard your privacy, we want this. Secondly, if you do not go to vote, the candidates know who has not come and they may send a proxy voter in your place. Transcribed byHamari Jamatia "SaniaSharmaandSeemaKushwaha areIASaspirantsatTheCouncil


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Election Commission of India THE INDIAN EXPRESS

NAME OF TIlE NEWS PAPER

2 9, MAY 2011'

DATE:

:'At one point during the polls, I thought we were losing the battle to money power. That didn't happen'

Fresh from the success of conducting five assembly elections, Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi was at the Express for an Idea Exchange. In this session moderated by Consulting Editor Seema Chishti, Quraishi speaks about elections being the source of corruption, the worthiness of EVMs and the scale of Indian elections

~~~--~----~--~----

SEEMACHISHTI:Can you recall one nasty " moment in the recent state assembly polls when you were worried and scared that things may fall apart? These were very difficult elections to conduct in the sense that at least two states were , particularly difficult: West Bengal had its law • and order problem. It has had a history of political violence. Prior to the elections, people , warned us that a civil war kind of situation prevailed there, so we had to be very careful. In Thmil Nadu, we were very worried about the money power because during the Thirurnangalam by-election, gross violations were reported and that was the model being feared. , So, we planned most for these two states. Kerala was easy, so was Puducherry. Assam had a bit of a problem in that it had its own militancy-related issues, the border issues and law and order issues but we deal with these issues day in and day out.

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~ NAME OF TIlE NEWS PAPER SEEMA CHISKTI: One particular incident or moment that reallyworried you? At one point of time, I thought we were losing the battle against money power which made me depressed. My colleagues assured me that it was not the case. If we had lost to money power, it would have been very serious for the country; because, as I have said before, elections have become . the root of all corruption in India. It may sound paradoxical and shocking for an Election Commissioner to say this but if someone spends say Rs 2 to 5 crore, beyond his means, to fight an election, naturally he would want to recover that money. This is the real basis of corruption in India and we need to check it. It is not for nothing that the law has prescribed a ceiling on election expenditure. This was raised from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 16 lakh for assemblyelections and from Rs 25 to Rs 40 lakh for parliamentary elections. We have information that it is violated with impunity. We try our best to catch the violators and they try their best to hoodwink us, so there is a constant tug-of-war. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. This is a very serious issue. However, I am personally satisfied, that the very people who were being offered money, saris and dhotis, were the ones who complained to us.

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

VANDITA MISHRA: As CEC,how do you look at protests against corruption-like Anna Hazare's fast and Swami Ramdev's fast next month-particularly in view of the fact that right after Hazare's fast, the

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five states that went to the polls registered higher voter turnout than earlier. It's a fact that India has a lot of corruption and that people are getting increasingly fed up. It is unfortunate that a situation developed where Anna Hazare had to go on a fast. We do need a Lokpal to check corruption at the highest level but that is not going to tackle the problem of corruption completely. What will the Lokpal do? Out of thousands of people, he would identify a few corrupt people and hound them out. We are saying that in the first place, don't allow the corrupt to come to power. Why do we allow them to fight elections? Debar criminals from contesting elections, check money power by self-discipline and cooperating with the Election Commission. 'Tahrir Square' has become part of everyday expression even '. in India, which is scary. Why has Jantar Mantar become a rallying point when barely a few hundred metres away, we have Parliament? That is where major decisions of policy and governance should take place. Incidentally, ECI headquarters is between these two places. I think this is a wake up call and we should wake up to it.

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COOMI KAPOOR: Is this money power more in the South than in the North because the states you have highlighted are mostly in the South. Earlier you spoke of Andhra Pradesh. We cannot generalise. It is across the country in varying degrees. For instance, in Chennai, every political party expressed concern about money power. In Thiruvananthapuram, however, political parties said there was no money power problem. We found that very in. teresting: Kerala and Tamil Nadu share a long border but in Kerala, we were told by all political parties that the voters are very percep• tive. They decide in their minds who they are going to vote for, and money is not going to change their minds, so why waste money? I think that's the best check on money power. ! In Kerala, money was not an issue for us at all . whereas in TamilNadu, it was giving us sleepless nights. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka ' also have worrisome money power. ...•.

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COOMI KAPOOR: And what is the going rate for an MLA? You mean what amount they spend on elections? It is impossible to quantify. It can only be anecdotal. In private conversations, MPs and MLAshave told us they spend Rs 2 to Rs 5 crore and more! But we require evidence. What is discussed in seminars and con.ferences cannot become a basis for legal action. What we try to do is catch the money that is used: how many cars are deployed, how many public meetings have been conducted, etc. But what goes on, privately, how much . money changes hands, is anecdotal. This time we have done something new, starting with the Bihar assembly elections: a few months before the election, we set up an Expenditure Monitoring Division which will monitor the money power throughout the year. We unleashed the entire Income Taxmachinery, intelligence, air intelligence to keep an eye on the money power and that has paid dividends. It worked well in Bihar, we fine-tuned it and implemented it in the recent polls.

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MANOJ C G:In the run up to the elections, did you feel that the expenditure ceiling has become meaningless and it should be done away with?

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* SANYA SHARMA: Why has the Election Commission not yet recommended state funding of elections as recommended by the Indrajit Gupta Committee. Weare not recommending it, we are opposing 1 Even Indrajit Gupta Committee said partial state funding can be considered provided there is total inner-party democracy and transparencyof politicalfunding. There is hardly any inner-partydemocracy.Wehave been demanding that all donations to political parties should be by cheque and all transactions by them should be by cheque, which is not happening. So, they must fulfill the first criteria of the Gupta cominittee. I particularly oppose it because it is not the obvious, legal expenditure we are talking about. Everybody is reporting 60-70 per cent of the ceiling. State funding will mean that much more money will become available for clandestine use. There is no guarantee that black money will be stopped.

.

RAKESH SINHA: Which of the next state elections requires special attention? There is a bunch of five states going into elections by early next year. The biggest is Uttar Pradesh, which is one fifth of India and it . has its own issues. It is a very difficult state, but last time it had perfect elections. We are . optimistic that it will be a good election. Punjab can be another difficult state-it has a lot of money and it has a bit of muscle power too. We have to deal with the ground reality of every state, specifically and very carefully. Uttarakhand is quite uncomplicated. Goa again is a small state but has huge money power. Manipur has its own problems. SEEMA CHISHTI: Do you think simultaneous national and assembly elections is a good idea? I think the time has come for this to be taken very seriously. It will definitely make it better. Initially, the Constitution framers had visualised simultaneous elections. But if a state government falls prematurely, then what do you do? That is why elections started happening in between and we had staggered elections. And now money power is not just a strain on us. It is , a strain on political parties as well. They are also extremely concerned. Let there be simultaneous elections. It will save a lot of money and harassment of the people. DIUP BOBB:What are the electoral reforms you would like to see done? One, we want criminals debarred from contesting elections. Asof now, the law-breaker becomes the law-maker. It is playing havoc with the polity.Allpolitical parties have rejected our

VANDITA MISHRA: What role can the EC play so that parties comply with their promise of inner-party democracy? After money power, our next concern is party functioning,their financing. Weare going to monitor it strictly now. Inner-party democracy should be a condition for party registration but unfortunately, we have no power to deregister parties. The time has come for the country to give us that power and for us to use whatever power we have to address the issue.

proposal and their reasoning is simple: they say .t?at in politics, false cases may be filed by the nvals. If somebody is disqualified on that basis it is not fair. Second, they say that the law of the land is that unless convicted, you are innocent. - But the reality of the Indian situation is that conviction takes 15-20 years and till then, a serious offender continues to be in power. Sowe have to find a way out. Atleast in the case of serious offences, heinous offences, which will lead to imprisonment of fiveyears or more and where the court oflaw has framed charges, let the person * SEEMA KUSHWAHA: The Arjun Sengupta be debarred. After all, lakhs of undertrials in Committee says 77 per cent of Indians live prison are deprived of three Fundamental on Rs 20 a day. On the other hand, over 60 . Rights--of liberty, movement and occupation. â&#x20AC;˘ per cent people participated in the elecRight to contest is not a fundamental right. tions. When 77 per cent people are living The second reform proposal is financial transparency and accountability: all political party donations and expenditure should be by on such low incomes, can they choose the cheque. It should be audited by an auditor apright representatives? proved by CAG,it should be put up on a webWe cannot assume that poor people are not site so that everyone can see. Today, a corposmart enough to vote. The voters of India are rate house gives you a donation and next the smartest in the world. Askthe political parweek you give them a licence, so people will be ties when they lose elections. Voters know that able to see whether there is a nexus. even if they do not have money, they have the right to vote, and they know how to use it.

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Election Commission of India NAME OF THE NEWS PAPER There is no reluctance at all. Up to 95 per cent of the parties, barring one or two (who said go back to the ballot paper,) feel the machines are fine while suggesting that we should consider a Voter-Verifiablepaper trail. Wehave referred the matter to the independent committee of experts. A committee of five is examining it. Wehave told our companies to start developing prototypes of such machines. The expert committee will examine and make recommendations. No one is more bothered about transparency and fairness of electi~ns than the Election Commission of India, which has been mandated by the Constitution to safeguard this. MANU PUBBY: Can you talk a bit about you collaboration with foreign countries. Indian elections are a brand which has great respect worldwide. Every week we get a delegation from some country or the other. They want to know our secret, our magic. We do not have any magic. We just have a very good foundation laid by the c~nsti.tutio~al framers and built on by the legislation WIth the support of political parties. You know the sheer size of our elections? We have more voters than all 50 countries of Europe put together, plus all 20 countries of South America put together. And the complexity of these 70 countries all rolled together into one. We have tensions conflicts, election frauds, militancy, goonda ~ardi, dadagiri, everything rolled into one when we conduct elections smoothly and declare the results in 12 hours, it's a marvel. We are doing lots of things with our neighbouring countries. Bhutan, for instance, is a new democracy and they have chosen the indian model after considering several options. They used our machines, they used our technology, our system. Nepal used our machines and the procedures also. We have been consulted by Egypt and Kenya.We have decided to share our experiences with emerging democracies.Weare setting up an institute called the India International Institute of Democracy and ElectionManagement and the very first course for the Kenyan trainees is starting at the end of June this year.

THE INDIAN EXPRESS -:--

DATE:

- MANOJCG:Willcompulsoryvotingwork in India? No not at all because compulsion and demo~acy do not go together. The decision to not vote is also your decision. Wehave set up a Voters Education Division which takes up very systematic voter education campai~ using social marketing principles to deal WIth voter apathy. Through this s~tegy, we ha~~ achieved consistent increase m voters parncipation in last seven elections; inclu~g historic records in West Bengal and TamilNadu. Even practically, it is impossible to hav~ compulsoryvoting. In the last general ~1~Ctlons, 300 million people did not vote. If It ISmad~ compulsory and you are a violator, you are m conflict with the law and we will have to file cases-30 crore new cases in an already overburdened legal system. * SANYA SHARMA: Should there be an option of voting for 'none of the above'? We have already written to the government that there should be an option for 'none of the above'. For two reasons: one, if YOIl don't want to vote, you should not be exposed. Toguard your privacy,we want this. Secondly, if you do not go to vote, the candidates know who has not come and they may send a proxy voter in your place. Transcribed by Haman Jamatia

* Sania Sharma and Seema Kushwaha are IAS aspirants at The Council

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Election Commission of India

NAME OF TIIE NEWS PAPER

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

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Photos by RAYI KANOJiA


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DATE:

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The Election Commission of India has emerged as a global icon for its increasingly flawless conduct of Indian elections , dubbed as the biggest management event in the world, writes. DEMOCRATIC elecCh'Ief EIec t'Ion C ommlssloner " SA Qurals · h"I tions provide the method through which citizens assert their· civil and political rights. Founders of modern India adopted universal adult suffrage thus reposing faith in the wisdom of the co~on Indian to elect hislher representative to the seat of power. Choice of electoral democracy for India was variously termed at that time as a giant leap forward, a bold enterprise and an unparalleled ~dv~nture. The· makers of the ConStItu.tlOn had realised quite early that el~ctl(~ns provide the startin~ point of ~ustIce and equality. Despite a 16% literacy rate and a caste-based hierarchical social system, the independenc.e came directly to the hands of ordinary people in the form of a vote. Oppressed masses of India h~d voted in many elections before SWItze~l~d allowed its women and Australia ItS aboriginals to vote. . A thriving and VIbrant electoral democracy has been India's distinct and durable identity at the global stage, long before it asserted. itself ~ economic, nuclear or IT major. This brand, which was founded by our freedom fighters and. makers of the Constitution, has been .n.urtured .by Parliament, Judiciary, Political Parties, Media and above all by the Pe?ple. of India with some distinct contribution from 'the Election Commission. . Over the past 61 years, the Election Commission has delivered 15 elections to the Lok Sabha and over 330

elections to State Legislative Assemblies, thus facilitating peaceful, orderly and democratic transfer of power. Elections to the 15th Lok. Sabha held in April-May 2009 have been described as the biggest management event in the world. It involved .714 million voters, 8,35,000 polling stations, 1.18 million Electronic Voting Machines and 11 million personnel. India's electorate is larger than ~t of any continent and even se?fal continents put together. ·t-The recently concluded elections. to five states and union territory, which have been rated as among the fmes,t, . involved one fifth of the country s electorate. The management of elections.in India has continually ~volved and still does, matching w.Ith the colossal proportions and ever mcreasing complexity of the task. J

CURBING BLACK MONEY The Commission's journey h~s also witnessed change in both quality and quantity of its operations. In 1962, the voting process moved from the balloting system to marking system and then to the present syste.m based o.n Electronic Voting Machines. M~ltImember constituencies haye gI~en way to single member consntuencies. Printed electoral rolls have now been substituted by computerised photoelectoral roUs. The Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC) is by .n?w a cherished possession of all citizens. Year after year, with engagement of technology and driven by a sense of innovation, and more in;tportantly matching with the dynamics of the .socio-political and economic process-

es or me Indian s~cIety, the art and craft of election'. ·.management .have been chiseled further -, In ~~e highly charged arena of c?mpettttve elections where distrust ISbest guarantor of fair-play, the Co~ssi0D: e~g~ges all tricks for prevention of mtll~lldation, election tracking and secunty & facilitation of voters. . In this evolution, the ECI IS pres~n~ly at new crossroads. While India s election management apparatus has quite effectively neutralised th~ challenges of muscle power an? ~ncun;tbency power, the COmmIS~IOn IS aware of the battles that remain t? ~ won. Election Commission of India .IS concerned that corruption can and m India does pollute the electoral'proce~s and undermines its real potential. It IS a striking coincidence that ~hen a debate on corruption is r.ag~ng all around the Election COmmISSIOnhas stepped up some determined measll!es to curb the use of black money dunng election campaigns.


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With the type of constitutional manThis also covers the new menace of Indian context, the potential of which is Paid News: a corrupt nexus between unfortunately, far from realised. This is date that the Commission has, it cannot political parties, candidates and media reflected in the low registration and low . afford to sit on its laurels. There are houses that seeks to hoodwink the . turnout of young voters. several long pending reform proposals . expenditure rules and causes undue Commission has responded to this and some recent ones from the Commission. that aim at cleaning""J1f1 influence on el~6i'S:1hmsparenc iii predicament in a decisive manner. Ithas the conduct and the process of elections, created a Systematic Voters' Education the electoral process, so that the foundation can be laid for good governanc especially in the arena of election expen- and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) diture and accounting is being given top wing, which rolls out comprehensive and a corruption free polity. priority. Awareness campaign for ethical community outreach and multi-media Countrywide consultations on these voting without falling for bribes and campaigns in partnership with a host of reforms are about to be completed, inducements is a new dimension of our organisations after carrying out a scien- paving the way for adoption of due legefforts, for which Civil Society has come tific survey of Knowledge, Attitude, islation. Some of these proposals deal forward with exemplary support. Behaviour and Practices (KABP) of with Criminalisation of politics and Another issue that has engaged seri- voters to fill up all possible gaps in regulation of campaign finance, publicous attention of the Commission in the information, motivation and participa- ity and opinion polls etc. We would past one year and more is voters' par- tion. This initiative has returned impres- like to see these getting accepted by all sive dividends in.terms of higher regis- Political Parties and Parliament. tration and higher turnout in each of the To conclude, the fierce neutrality of recent state elections including record Election Commission constitutes the " It is, therefore, surprjsing turnout in some states. core of its strength. It is, therefore, when EC is attacked for In a historic measure, Commission surprising when EC is attacked for doing what all political pardeclared 25th January, its foundation doing what all political parties want it day as the National Voters Day (NVD) to do. Certain amount of hue and cry ties want it to do... If you go from this year with the avowed purpose is of course expected, as we experifor a life saving surgery, to increase enrolment of voters, espe- ence from election to election. If you cially of the newly eligible ones. More go for a life saving surgery, some some blood win drip. " than 52 lakh newly eligible and regis- blood will drip. We are taking this in tered youth were given their EPICs at the stride. For carrying out its sacred General Elections 2009 more than 8 lakh polling stations on the duty, assigned ' by the Indian first National Voters Day. This has been Constitution, the Commission will billed as the largest exercise of empow- not dither. it does not matter if there million voters, erment of the youth on a single day, any- are no accolades. It also does not matwhere in the world. The Commission is ter if there are brickbats. polling stations, aiming at even higher levels of impact We have come to a stage in India during NVD 2012 and future years for when holding a free and fair election is millio~ EVMs making universal suffrage a reality. no more a spectacular achievement. In fact not holding one would be an POLL MANAGEMENT exception. This is India's promise to million personnel its own people and to the world. The It does not require any explanation that aspiring democracies around the Comrnission is now looking ahead to ticipation, Elections have to be not world look forward to sharing the add higher quality to election manageonly free and fair but also socially just knowledge, skills and expertise at ment - to enrich an already good and more participative. Otherwise ECl's disposal. Responding to brand. We will strive to make elections increasing global demands, especially peaceful every time. There shall be no there may remain a democracy deficit despite a correct election. from Afro-Asian nations, the let off in the fight against money Commission is in the process of set- power in elections. The other goal is to TURNOUT OF YOUNG VOTERS ting up an India International Institute have every eligible Indian on our elecThe Constitution from its very inception toral rolls and every Indian voter to of Democracy and Election provided every 21 year old the right to Management (IIDEM) that will serve vote in the elections. We will inform, vote in direct recognition of the role of as a training and resource centre in the motivate and facilitate our citizens to the youth in the democratic process. The critical sector of elections for both do so. The Commission has a simple voting age was further reduced to 18 national and international particivision: 'Elections that are completely years in 1989 through a Constitutional pants. In the days to come, this free of crime and abuse of !p0y¢ney, Amendment. These two steps are noth- Institute of India should hold light to based' on a perfect electoral roll with full participation of voters. . ing less than two revolutions in the the road of democracy worldwide.

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9 MAY l011

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

9 MAY 2011

DATE:2

The way the wind ·will blow

now

People look forward to impro~g iheir living conditions and cast their votes to the party which promised to do so. Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar prove that appeals to caste or religion together no longer count for much. . The rout of the Communist government in West Bengal should teach Communist Party leaders, particularly Prakash Karat, a lesson ..D?gmatic Marxism, rampant trade uruorusm and frequent strikes took a heavy toll of industry and prevented Bengal fr~m becoming a leader in industry. Also, ItS. leaders' allergy towards everything American was childi~h he recent elections in five beyond belief. They have prod states deserve to be a heavy price for their obscuknown as landmark elec;, rantism. tions for many reasons. 'l'he The demise ofKarunanidhi's ~voters was about DMK is to be welcomed. He the largest we have known: treated Tamil Nadu as his fambetween 75 to 86 per cent. This . is a clear indication that the aam admz ily property. All the scams that r:nne~ knows that voting is his privilege as well the reputation ofDr Manmohan Smghs government were the doing of J?MK as his duty. ministers. Only last year, Jayalalithaa There was very little violence and said she would give unconditional supmost of the exercise was carried out port to the Central Government if .it peacefully. Musclemen and booth capdispensed with DMK. I hope she will turing are past history. So are v?te stick to her word. banks based on caste or commumty.

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cerned, I see the wind still blowing in favour ofthe Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi, the president, and her son Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary of the party. And the central government headed by Manmohan Singh reassured of a full five year term in office. BUDDHA JAYANTI Every Buddha Jayanti, I am reminded of the one I spent in Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh). Eminent Buddhists from many countries were expected to offer prayers at the Stupa. Dr Radhakrishnan, then Vice-President of India was to give the inaugural speech. I was commissioned by All India Radio to cover the event for Indian listeners. The Sanchi stupa dates back to the third century BC. It had many sculptures depicting Jataka tales from Buddha's life.When I reached Sanchi, a whole city of tents to accommodate visitors had come up. Dr Radhakrishnan who was a great orator gave a spell-binding speech and touched on the salient teachings ofthe Buddha, notably the allpervasive dukha (sorrow) and the need to learn detachment to combat it. The came the chanting: "

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.' Jayalalithaa must keep her word and supporUhe central government now' FILE PHOTO

Assam stays with the Congress for the third time. In Kerala, another bastion of the Communists, the Congress support increased. So what do we make of the results from the five states? As far as I am con-

Buddham Shamam Gachhami Dharmam shamam Gachhami Sang ham shamam Gachhami By the time the ceremonies ended, it was well past midnight. I walked about the fields taking in the hallowed atmosphere. Now I live in a crowded Delhi where garish electric lights blot out the moon and the stars from vision. ARAB IN YANKEE LAND Mohammad, a child of-Arab parents was enrolled in a school in New York. On the first day, his teacher asked: "What is your name?" The boy replied, "Mohammad". From now on your name is Johny as you are in America," she said. In the evening, when he came back, his mother asked, "How was your day Mohammad?" He said, "My name is not Mohammad. I'm in America and my name is Johny." His mother slapped him and said angrily: "Aren't you ashamed of trying to dishonour your parents, your heritage, your religion?" Then she called his father and he also slapped him. The next day when the teacher saw him with his face red and asked what

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