Earlier in Forum







Q: How should elections be
made clean?
This is the fourth instalment of readers’ response

Scale down election expenditure

Stars add glamour, but at a cost

Stars add glamour, but at a cost.

Elections are the most basic instrument to formulate and execute the "general will" to run a democracy, as expounded by Rousseau. Clean elections will ensure that we get to choose from intelligent candidates, who would otherwise stay away from democratic institutions. Money power should have the least role in elections, which is possible if campaigning is non-extravagant and dignified by law. The campaign time should be extended to enable voters to make up their mind in a cool manner. Canvassing should mainly be done through the media and funded by the government. Outside contributions to political parties should be limited to an appropriate level.



To make elections clean, these should first be made economical. Like other fields, politics has also become commercialised. A candidate does not merely fight an election; he or she makes an investment. After making huge expenditure on the election process, candidates are all raring to recover their money. The Election Commission should, therefore, fix the budget for election campaigns. There is also a need to bring transparency in the government work, so that no government is ever politicised. Voters should not sell their vote or be influenced by communal propaganda. Candidates should at least be graduates and any candidate who changes party after election or starts abusing power should be recalled.

Jhansa (Kurukshetra)

Punish defectors and non-serious candidates

The Greeks gave the world democracy. In ancient Greece, the people used to elect their representatives by raising hands in a public place without any fear. With time, voting has become clandestine and improper because of persons who want to stay in power, come what may. To make elections clean, we'll have to go from Gomukh to Kolkata and from Yamounotri to Triveni and hope that the holy water from these places will clean not only the townsfolk, but also their representatives. Unfortunately, we have no political holy water. We can only hope that voters are at least matriculates, who own property in constituency. We also pray that there is no criminal among the candidates and no one is contesting from more than one place. We wish to see the Election Commission prosecute defaulters, defectors and non-serious candidates. Politicians twice elected and over the age of 55 should retire.


Limit the number of nominations

Conducting elections in a multifarious country like India involves paramount responsibility. The procedure should be made more transparent, systematic and authentic. The number of persons filing nominations should be restricted and the number of national parties should be reduced to two. The eligibility for contesting the elections should also be made tougher. Criminals should not be allowed to contest. All campaigning should be at one or two public places and door-to-door campaigning should be discouraged.


Ask for sworn affidavits

There is a need to fix total money for conducting the Lok Sabha, state Assemblies and elections. The authorities are unable to take action against candidates who are more powerful and influential. Candidates should submit affidavits of their previous police record, if any. Only they should be allowed to enter the contest who are able to assure the Election Commission that they have never been on the wrong side of law. They should also give assurance to the EC that they would never disrupt the proceeding of the House or violate the code of conduct during elections. The state election department should screen all voters' lists. It would be better if the parties restricted their campaign to the media. There should be a clause in the nomination form that any winning candidate who is unable to fulfil his or her promises would be called back.

— M. L. GARG,

Tainted men should lose nomination

Because most of the participants in elections are uneducated, anti-social elements, the law should fix some basic minimum qualification for filing nominations. This basic qualification could be graduation or any higher degree. The Election Commission should check the police records of all participants thoroughly and candidature should be cancelled even if the candidate has ever committed a minor offence. Campaign expenditure should be fixed, so that no participant tries to purchase votes.



Persons with criminal background will have to be banned from fighting elections. There is no dearth of honest and clean persons in our population of over a billion. The crumbs that politicians throw at them during elections should not influence electors. We have been voting even hardcore gangsters, criminals and corrupt persons to the Vidhan Sabhas, Parliament, panchayats and municipal corporations. If only the Election Commission had more powers to ban the corrupt from fighting election, we'd get a better choice of candidates. Nomination forms should include a certificate that the candidate bears a good moral character; the police or the EC should issue this certificate based on information gathered secretly. If found unsuitable, the nomination should be rejected and the party concerned should be told to field a candidate with clean image.

Khabbal (Kangra)

Candidate's assets should be made public

In India, elections were introduced to give political support and position to those who were capable of representing people, but today, elections have become playthings of the dominant. In most instances, the voter is aware of the candidate's criminal background, assets, ability and performance. If not, the voter should know these details. If these details are made public, more voters will be able to take the right decision. The media can play an important role in screening candidates. The Election Commission shouldn't allow criminals to become representatives.


Nurture democratic culture

There is a need to create a democratic culture. After Independence, we adopted the best system of governance, but were not prepared for its abuses. Our aim was to create a socialistic pattern of society, but capitalism dominated our style of governance. For years, elections have been won by widening our communal differences. Money, caste and religion play a crucial role every time; now even criminals have joined the party and elections have become a big business. These factors show that we have not advanced culturally. It is said that mistakes of democracy do not compare with the mistakes of any other political system. Emerson once remarked: "Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." However, this is true only when the ordinary people are like Lal Bahadur Shastri and Dr Manmohan Singh, who respect democratic culture.


EC's efforts should be more sincere

Elections can be made clean, if the Election Commission, politicians, party workers, judiciary and media make sincere efforts. A hard-working body should be set up to draw and implement plans for clean elections and to see that politicians and the media do not mislead voters. This body should keep an eye on every note paid in bribe during elections. If the Election Commission were to do its duty honestly, elections can be made clean.

Bhawanigarh (Sangrur)

Create conditions for fair poll

Democracy provides us with justice, equality, liberty, freedom of expression and opportunities to grow, provided it is workable; however, democracy ceases to work where illiteracy, backwardness, poverty and lawlessness rule. Elections in such circumstances could only be a farcical waste of time. To hold free, fair and clean elections, the following qualitative aspects of a workable democracy should be fulfilled and followed: stable government; balanced economic set up; healthy and disciplined society; and people who exercise their right to vote.


Amend the Constitution

To strengthen democracy, voters should play their role properly; and their role is to elect educated and responsible persons, which can only be possible if elections are made clean An Amendment to the Constitution should be brought to control criminalisation of politics and elections. Persons who are not committed to the Constitution and don't respect its values should be debarred from filing nominations. A minimum basic qualification (graduation) should be fixed for contesting any election in India. A person with criminal background should not be allowed to contest. There should be two-party system at the Centre. The administration should be held responsible for failing to check the sale/purchase of votes. Promises made during elections should be made binding with the help of a legal clause.


Surrender arms, set up helplines

The polling staff and polling booths should both be screened. The polling staff should be told to conduct elections in a smooth and impartial manner. It should be made easy for physically challenged voters to reach the polling booth. No campaign poster should be allowed inside polling booths or anywhere near. The law should take strict action against any person or organisation defacing public property. The training programme regarding the use of electronic voting machines should be made better. This programme should not just be for the electoral officials, but the masses should also be trained in using the EVMs. Additional police force at polling stations will discourage rigging. During elections, there should be a special team to capture all parole jumpers. Every citizen should be told to hand over to the police any firearm in the house. Helplines should be set up for citizens to know whether or not their names are on the voters' list.

Faridkot (Punjab)

Parties should pre-audit expenditure

All leading political parties that come into power should keep in mind that tomorrow these parties may be in opposition. The Centre's job is even tougher during elections. No one should be allowed to spend in any way even a single penny on electioneering from the government coffers. The expenditure should be pre-audited by the government agencies and defaulters in this process should be debarred from even getting the party ticket. If the party as a whole has done wrong, it should be derecognised. Only harsh and hard measures can make elections clean.


Media should be more balanced

Election means to elect voluntarily a capable, disciplined, allegiant, unprejudiced and reformist person. During polling, politicians try to create many delusions in the mind of the voter. During poll, all such persons should be restrained from wandering anywhere near the polling station. The voter should make a comparative study of the candidates from his or her constituency before casting his or her vote. The media should keep an eye on all coercive methods to get support during elections and also on anyone inciting communal, caste and ideological passions. Media is of greater value for information and moulding public opinion, so it needs to check itself for sensationalism and distorted reportage.

VPO Nagrota Surian (Kangra)

Make room for reforms

One of the misfortunes of our polity is that despite the rulers and the ruled knowing every bit of about every source of corruption, pretension is as if everything is fair. Self-patting leaves hardly any scope for reforms. Voters also take advantage of their leaders, discarding ethics and principles of good governance. All wrong deeds are buried under clever interpretations of law. Until better sense prevails (which is a distant dream), elections cannot be made clean.

— M. P. S. CHANDA,

System is right, voter is wrong

There is no problem with the system; it's our approach that's wrong. The "Great Indian Tamasha" will go on, if we fail to do either of the following: ban lavish spending of money during elections; bring in transparency; make candidates undergo lie-detector test; remember ethics; respect the opposition; introduce counselling for politicians and voters; and limit the number of candidates from a single constituency. India expects every voter to lay more stress on quality and not quantity. More women candidates and better minimum qualification will ensure a clean fight. Politics is the game of scoundrels. It should be played with clean hands.


All we need is a revolution

Criminalisation of politics has become so deep rooted that it cannot be uprooted without a revolution. All assets that are undeclared or disproportionate to candidate's known sources of income should be confiscated. Parties should give tickets to talented and selfless persons. The elections should be fought on government expenses, for which money should be collected from candidates. Not more that 30 election meetings should be allowed in one constituency. Every speech should be aired on public service broadcasting network. That way, public will get to know the individual behind the party. A minimum academic qualification (graduation) should be laid for becoming a candidate. Caste-based reservation in seats should be phased out. Any candidate defeated twice should be disqualified for further nominations.


Bring back those who abstain

Our representatives should be persons of proven integrity and fully dedicated to the high values of life. Political parties should select their candidates judiciously and keep away criminals from elections. The Election Commission is doing its job well, but there's still a room for improvement. Records indicate that voting is not more than 60 per cent; we'll now have to bring back the remaining 40 per cent into play. It needs to be made mandatory for each eligible voter to cast his or her vote, failing which he or she should be disqualified from voting for a certain period.


Wanted: honest judiciary, fearless media

Democratic election is a peaceful way of removing injustice. This safety valve for the political boiler comes into action when public discontent simmers. Judiciary is our second safety valve. If voters are honest, so will be their candidates, and this valve will work properly. If they allow themselves to be purchased, suppressed or misled, the system will burst into a violent revolution. Our first recourse should be honest judiciary and fearless media. The alternative is anarchy.


EC needs support from voters

Elections are a mega event anywhere, which is more the reason why everyone should lend the Election Commission a hand in ensuring fair, free and clean elections. The Election Commission is doing its best to enforce a code of conduct by posting observers in sensitive states. It's chief ministers and sycophant bureaucrats who need to amend their ways. Candidates should be graduates at least. Tainted candidates should be debarred from contesting elections. Parliament and all state Assemblies should be dissolved much before elections. President's rule should prevail till the new government is formed. Voters should not fall prey to any allurement and intellectuals should take upon themselves to educate the masses about their rights and duties. Legal action should be taken against parties inciting communal passions. Giving voters the right to recall will empower them in the right way.


Hold elections under President’s rule

There should be President's rule in the state for at least 45 days before the day of election. Political debates should be conducted only on television. No canvassing should be allowed through rallies that inconvenience public. The Election Commission should be given more powers to punish the guilty. Once the candidate has been charge sheeted for any crime, he or she should not be given ticket for contesting the election until he or she is exonerated. Donations to party funds should be banned; rather the government should fund elections. A candidate should be allowed to contest successfully for two terms only.


Enforce code of conduct strongly

Fair elections are the need of the hour. Till now, the Constitution has been soft on political parties, with the result that these factions now go to any extent during elections and blatantly defy the code of conduct issued by the Election Commission. Voters should cast their vote after weighing all pros and cons of this manipulation. We can't forever continue to let criminals and unscrupulous persons enter Parliament and state Assemblies. The code of conduct should be enforced strongly during elections and the people, political parties, government and judiciary should keep persons with criminal background at bay. Candidates should be asked to submit sworn affidavits regarding the terms of election. Television and radio should be the only mediums for electioneering, for this would cut expenditure hugely.

Chakhajipur (Hoshiarpur)

Ban opinion polls, surveys

Graduation should be the minimum qualification for being a candidate and the minimum voting age should be 21. Time given for canvassing should be reduced and the security deposit should be made at least Rs 50,000. All election meetings should be from a common platform, where each candidate could be compared with the other contenders. Parole of criminals, culprits should be suspended during the election days. Mobile voting system should be introduced for people who live below poverty line (BPL) or are unable to reach polling booths. Any candidate who does not get the least prescribed number votes should be labelled non-serious candidate and debarred from contesting any future election. Opinion poll and pre-poll surveys should not be allowed. Every candidate should produce a no-dues certificate from various government agencies handling taxation and utility bills, like the electricity and telecom departments.

— J. K. JAIN,

Make voting a continuous process

To avoid bogus votes, a mechanism should be put in action to see that voting is a continuous exercise, on for 365 days a year. The present system of preparing and revising voters' lists is faulty and the CMO of each district should be involved for removing the names of bogus voters from these lists quickly after comparing this data with all registered births and deaths. Graduation should be the minimum qualification for fighting any election. Submission of affidavits of clean police record should be made mandatory while filing nominations. Only paramilitary forces and police from other states should do policing during elections. Assemblies could be dissolved before elections and an apolitical person of integrity should take over governance and conduct elections. Sitting or retired Judges are suitable for such positions.

— M. S. GILL,
Kokri Kalan

Stringent law is the best option

Army rule, media power and stringent laws are best alternatives for curbing booth capturing and poll related violence, which has become common news during elections in India. So far, all other solutions have failed to tackle the problem of violence during elections. It is a problem that will only get more dangerous with the time. The Election Commission of India will have to take some harsh steps to get rid of this problem, for which there are some alternatives, like we can replace the local police with the Army for maintaining law and order during elections, because many of policemen are afraid of going at their political bosses. Every policeman feels insecure about his job whenever he comes to face a political power. Under fear, some policemen even hide themselves during elections and poll violence. All voting booths should be under the secure eye of the media for a continuous update of voting at all booths, which is all the more necessary during elections. For this, there should be some relaxation given to representatives of the media only. During elections, law should be made harsher for public (Strengthening Section 144 is one way, for example). Harsh laws will keep perpetrators of violence away from polling booths. However, the success of these alternatives depends on proper and perfect implementation of these laws.


Provide level playing field

I have identified a few practical steps to ensure clean and free elections, so that we are able to afford democracy, which is otherwise costly and unaffordable. There is a strong case for President’s rule at the Centre, at least for parliamentary elections, and Governor’s rule for state Assembly elections. The politician in power should understand that clean elections are a democratic right, which calls for a suitable environment for all the actors in the drama, such as voters, officials and even the candidates contesting elections. The media has a special role to play in this great endeavour by providing all political parties with a level playing field during elections.

— M. M. GOEL,


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