India’s dire need of electoral reforms
For a democracy as diverse and complex as ours, improvements need to be a consistent feature. Talking more specifically about electoral reforms, we all want it to be a precise reflection of the society, its trends, and aspirations. With several parties at both the national and regional levels, the demand for these reforms has gained significant momentum. A party that has shown its prominence here is JDU with Nitish Kumar as its president and Mahima Patel in Karnataka at the helm of affairs.
For every election that is held, the Election Commission (EC), urges the citizens to vote freely, fearlessly, and make a pragmatic and ethical choice. By and large, the election process is also free and fair. However, with more than 900 million eligible voters and a million polling booths, the Lok Sabha elections, for instance, emerge as the most significant ‘mela’ of the democracy in India and elsewhere in the world. The last Lok Sabha elections saw nearly 10,000 candidates for 545 seats, with more than 500 political parties in the fray. We find several leaders from regional parties like JDU making consistent efforts to bring changes in the lives of the poor and underprivileged. Nitish Kumar in Bihar has already shown the mettle, and Mahima Patel in Karnataka is on track with a strong focus on meaningful politics that is unifying in nature.
Off late, during the election season, the overall atmosphere gets feistier and even fractious. Polarization is encouraged, and being a multi-party contest, even the candidate with low vote share, gets elected. It is a direct outcome of an extreme ideological focus on the core voter base.
The election process in India has come a long way since the 1970s and the 1980s where it was characteristic of negative campaigning, divisive speeches, and all forms of violence. The split of the electorate on the lines of caste, religion, language, and locality was the focus then. A lot has changed for the better since then. There was a gradual realization that the electoral system in the country was emerging as the basis of political corruption. Bihar is one example for the nation, a perfect case study of political science. With elections for the assembly seats coming up next year, JDU and its president Nitish Kumar have renewed their focus on politics based on people’s issues instead of caste or religion. Emerging as the party with an ideology, JDU has shown commitment in distancing itself from candidates with a criminal background.
Of the multiple issues plaguing the electoral process in India, the more prominent ones are the use of muscle and money power. For every constituency, the campaigning budgets run into crores of Rupees for every candidate. Exceeding the permissible limit of expenses is considered normal. If you go towards the rural areas, one may find widespread reports of violence, booth capturing, etc. However, there are parties like JDU that refrain itself from such issues as last seen in Karnataka State Assembly Elections in 2018.
Another issue that demands immediate attention is the politicization of criminals. The political patronage and protection of criminals hurt the democratic process the most, leading to the criminalization of politics. The misuse of Government Machinery and the non-serious Independent candidates is another concern to be addressed. JDU‘s state president Mahima Patel in Karnataka has successfully managed to uphold JDU‘s stand against the criminalization of politics.
No matter how diverse our society is but casteism and communalism in the elections are again a severe blot on democracy. The strategy of winning elections by dividing the nation needs to be dealt with firmly.
The business of politics is the biggest red flag in the Indian electoral process. This lack of moral values in politics makes people enter politics to make quick money and power. Unfortunately, there are very few individuals and even fewer parties that pursue the agenda of development and upliftment devoid of partisan politics. JDU seems to have set examples for other parties to follow.
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