The CPPR 4th Quarterly Lecture Series was organized by Centre for Public Policy Research, supported by South Indian Bank on Friday, 4th of October at Grand Hotel, M.G. Road, Kochi.
The keynote address on the topic “Decriminalisation of Indian Electoral System was delivered by Mr. J. M. Lyngdoh, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India who mentioned the mile stones achieved by the Election Commission of India during his tenure (2001-‘04). Mr. Lyngdoh highlighted the curbing of bogus votes in Andhra Pradesh from 5 million bogus votes to a persistent 1.5 million bogus votes. Sadly right after his retirement, yet another 1.5 million bogus votes were once again identified in the election process of Andhra Pradesh, he said. He explained in great detail, the association of money power and criminalisation of politics and clearly stated and underlined that money power in politics is criminalisation in his words. He questioned how money became such an important component in a poor country like India? He pointed out how till the 1900’s such expenditure was in a moderate scale and primarily meant to bribe the voters. He criticised that courts have been finicky about deciding upon such case of bribery. Moving on he mentioned about the 1980’s scenario and wittily asked if it a coincidence that ‘Money Power’ is also a product of 1980’s - the time when the economy grew. He highlighted how the privatisation and liberalisation scenario has led to strategic ministers associating with international bodies and lead to money power politics during elections. Retrieval of black money via Hawala transactions, thinning line of private and public authorities that is further melting away in terms of looting the nation, improper allocation of our minerals and other resources including sand (e.g. looting of sand alone is 200,000 Crores annually), paid news in T.V and print, increase of assets among election candidates during every election, ‘Nightly Transactions’ i.e. wining and dining’ of which observers fail to keep a check etc. are the areas Mr. Lyngdoh without any restrain touched upon.
Mr. Lyngdoh spoke of the general perception about elections among the candidates, ‘If you spent the most you are likely to win.’ Such a country is a Plutocracy not Democracy, he asserted. Mr. Lyngdoh said that the Election Commission, Revenue Department and the Civil Society need to work together to put an end to this. The relevance of Lokpal and CBI to intervene and investigate criminalisation of electoral process was also proposed. Also, he elaborated on the cure to ensure effective election relevance of a change over to “Proportional Representation” (representation of political parties rather than individuals) that will ensure more representation and hence will uplift democratic principles. He emphasized how “Proportional representation has been favoured by more than 80 countries around the globe such as Nepal, Netherlands (100%) etc. He welcomed Supreme Court’s recent judgements that will play a crucial role in reforming the electoral process of India. Finally he questioned why an ordinary citizen doesn’t get visa clearance if he has a criminal case hanging like a dagger but at the same time there is an exception in case of the representatives of the people in contesting elections?
The event started with a welcome address by the Chairman of CPPR, Dr. D. Dhanuraj who mentioned that there is a long way to go in terms of electoral reforms with agreements as well as well as disagreement on various aspects of decriminalisation of Indian electoral system. Akash Ramakrishnan, Communications Associate, CPPR proposed the vote of thanks.