10th Annual Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms

Day 1

  • Election Commissioner Mr. H.S. Brahma announces:

   E-Filing of election nominations: Candidates contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha 2014 elections will now be able to e-file (in a web-based form) their nominations as well as affidavits, in addition to filing the same in paper form. The Election Commission of India (ECI) will soon ask the government to modify the current rules regarding the same so that e-filing is made mandatory. This move of the ECI holds the potential to accelerate the process of dissemination of information regarding the criminal, financial, educational and other background details of candidates contesting elections.

o   Launch of Citizen Reporting tool (EWR): The Election Commissioner launched a citizen reporting tool- “Election Watch Reporter” (EWR-an android based application developed by the National Election Watch . He also recommended that the same be used by the Election Commission in the upcoming elections to keep a check on electoral malpractices like bribing of voters (by liquor distribution, cash etc); and excessive spending by candidates. This tool will enable citizens to capture photographic evidence (with precise GPS location and time) of any wrongdoing in and around elections and report it instantaneously to the nearest Election Commission observers.

  Investigation of non-contesting Political Parties: There are around 1600 registered political parties in the country, but only a few have contested elections regularly. ADR should study why political parties feel the need to get registered but are not interested in contesting elections.

  • Mr. Brahma states “if we choose good candidates, the benefits will flow back to us in the society”. Further he says the following:-

  Quality of Politics and quality of leadership are the most important determinants for the governance of a country.

o   Along with quantity of voting i.e. high voting turnouts we also need quality in voting i.e. individuals with honesty and integrity entering legislature.

o   In pronouncing the 10th July, 2013 judgment that banned convicted MPs and MLAs from continuing in office, the Supreme Court of India along with persistent perseverance of civil society organizations achieved in one day what the Election Commission of India had not been able to achieve for decades.  

 

  • Not much has been done with respect to political reforms. Issues of financial transparency and internal democracy with regard to political parties are of paramount importance for accountable and strong delivery based governance in the country.
  • Civil society organizations can play an important role in elections by disseminating background information on candidates contesting elections and by popularizing the NOTA (None of the above) button in EVMs.
  • NOTA is a strong instrument that has been made available to voters. In the Chhattisgarh 2013 Assembly elections, NOTA was used in large numbers. In the coming years NOTA will assume greater criticality.
  • Current rules do not allow the Election Commission to investigate election affidavits and also the commission does not have the power to monitor expenses made by parties and candidates before the nomination process begins.
  • India needs a larger number of strong think tanks working in the area of electoral and political reforms, much like those in developed nations; Very few think-tanks in India currently are of world class standard.

 Mera Vote Mera Desh (MVMD) Campaign: At the conference, the coordinators of various state chapters of National Election Watch shared their plans for ADR’s nationwide campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha 2014 elections. The campaign will be carried out on all possible means of communication be it digital (social media, web based), electronic (TV, FM radio) and other outdoor avenues of advertising. The objectives of the campaign are 

  • To disseminate the findings of the ADR survey (largest survey ever conducted in India in about 530 Lok Sabha constituencies)

1)      to ascertain the real issues of voters around the country

2)     to assess the real performance of MPs as assessed by voters in their constituencies (based on a set of parameters)

  • To disseminate background information of candidates who will be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections
  • To make voters aware of the link between electoral evils such as bribing by candidates and bad governance.  
  • To popularize among voters provisions such as NOTA in EVM etc

Please find attached the following reports that were released during lst day of the conference

  1. Sources of Funding of Major Parties of Jharkhand

  2. Election Expenditure of Jharkhand parties during Jharkhand Assembly Elections, 2009

Day 2

16th Feb 2014: The second day of the 10th Annual National Conference  focussed on the role of media in elections as well as the grave necessity to address the most pressing problems in the electoral and political arena.

Role of Media in Elections:

Panelists: Mr. Vipul Mudgal (CSDS), Baijnath Mishr (Sanmarg), Anuj Sinha (Prabhat Khabar), Tanaya Singh (Youth ki Awaaz), Prashant Arya and Ramanjeet Cheema (Google)

  • Although media is termed as the fourth pillar of democracy but unlike other three pillars (legislature, executive and judiciary) it doesn’t have any statutory or constitutional power, says Vipul Mudgal of CSDS
  • Paid news is a menace to the health of democracy of the country. The power of money exercised by a handful of corporate houses are unfairly influencing and moulding public opinion.
  • The self-regulation mechanism has proved to be ineffective. There should be effective laws to govern and regulate the media
  • Internet and social media are increasingly playing a significant role because they provide a level playing field so that information evolves on these platforms in a fair manner. Internet enables everyone to become publishers of information.
  • Internet as a media is also an enabler for transparency and accountability of the reporting of information because it acts as an archive for all the past reports on an issue. Everybody is uploading their content on the internet and this provides an opportunity to everyone to carry out their own research regarding an issue.

Pending electoral reforms:

Panelists: Mr. R Venkataramani (Member, Law Commission), M.L.Sharma (Former Information Commissioner), Justice (Retd.) Vikramaditya Prasad, Ms. Kamini Jaiswal (Senior Counsel, Supreme Court)

  • Political corruption is the root cause of corruption in all other spheres, therefore it is imperative that Political Parties function in a transparent and accountable manner
  • Senior Advocate and Law Commission member Mr. R Venkataramani suggests the setting up of an election tribunal that would screen suitability of candidates to contest elections. This tribunal would receive complaints from citizens regarding candidates whom citizens think are unfit to hold a public office
  • Sources of contributions received and details of expenses incurred by Political Parties must be available in the public domain. The scrutiny of these disclosures will create moral pressure on these parties from the public
  • Pending cases against candidates contesting in elections should be fast-tracked in a court of law, says Justice Vikramaditya Prasad.
  • Candidates against whom charges related to grave offences have been framed in a court of law must be disqualified from contesting elections, says former Information Commissioner Mr. M.L. Sharma
  • Furnishing of incomplete affidavits and affidavits with incorrect information furnished by contesting candidates must be made grounds for rejection of the candidates’ nomination. The Election Commission must be given the powers to scrutinize and reject the nomination on these grounds, says Senior Lawyer of  the Supreme Court Ms. Kamini Jaiswal

The way forward: The 10th Annual National Conference concluded with the following resolutions:

  • As part of the Mera Vote Mera Desh campaign, all the state chapters of NEW will write letters to Political Parties requesting them not to field candidates with criminal records. These letters will be accompanied by details of candidates with serious criminal records who have been previously fielded by the Political Parties.
  • A pan-India campaign will be unleashed before Lok Sabha elections through all possible avenues of communication such as Digital, Electronic, Mobile etc.
  • Voters should press upon Political Parties to include in their manifestos the issues that directly concern voters.

More than 600 attendees of the conference have signed a pledge that they will not vote for tainted candidates or sell their votes for the candidates who try to bribe them with inducements like cash, liquor etc.

Please find attached the following report that has been released during 2nd day of the conference

Income, Expenditure and Donations of Jharkhand's major political parties - between FY 2004-05 and 2011-12


Documents distributed during the National Conference

 Press Coverage of the conference can be found HERE

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