PUCL Bulletin, Sept. 2002

Electoral reforms
Letter to George Fernandes, Convenor, NDA, New Delhi, July 18, 2002

From L.C. Jain, "Tharangavana". D-5, 12th Cross, RMV Extension, Bangalore 560 080

Dear George,
I am no body to be writing this letter to you. I do so only on the strength of our mutual affection and also encouraged by your capacity as the Convenor of NDA.

Item 26 of NDA 's Common Agenda held promise:

We will introduce necessary electoral reforms on the basis of the recommendations of the Goswami Committee, the Indrajit Gupta Committee and the Law Commission Report so as to deal with the malaise of defections, corruption and criminalisation of politics, and to prevent electoral malpractices.

The credibility of this promise was further underscored by the fact that in his speech in the Lok Sabha on May 29, 1995, Advani ji (adding that Atal ji was one with him on this) stressed the 'paramount importance and urgency of electoral reforms to plug the various lacunae'. The lacunae, he said "are there because some political leaders, some parties have developed vested interests. It is only right that if we can do things on the basis of money power, muscle power and governmental power, why go in for reforms?"

It pains me to say that in spite of this history, item 26 of the NDA Agenda has remained on paper. Only in March 2002, NDA moved a bill, which is confined to facilitate corporate funding. No one will grudge such funding but it is no more than starvation diet for item 26.

Now on 15 July 2002, a draft bill has been circulated by NDA government to all parties. This draft bill is unashamedly contemptuous of the right of the voter to have sufficient facts to be able to make an informed choice among competing candidates. Instead of giving a legislative backing to the inspiring initiative of the Supreme Court to safeguard the voter's right, the Bill bangs the door on Supreme Court and EC for ever. Parliament has its domain but that is for honouring the right of the people. It is not and cannot be a passport for stabbing the voter in the back.

The draft bill is also shameless in other ways. Its claim that it goes beyond disclosure ordained by the Supreme Court and provide for disqualification of criminals is no more than a smoke screen to scuttle the Supreme Court Judgement of May 2. For it, one rape is not enough to disqualify, for that, a person must commit at least two rapes.

Some of your Cabinet colleagues have argued in the media that an MP will furnish a statement of his / her assets only if elected, and that too only to the speaker. But how do they reach the speaker without a thorough search by the voter? Or are we asking for a blind vote? It is a pity that NDA of which you are the Convenor should sponsor such a legislation. It will help a lot if you were to make your views publicly known to all.

Lakshmi, 18-7-2002

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