Social activist Anna Hazare’s agitation has kindled hopes of a social movement against corruption. But the movement could only serve the purpose partially, unless an equally strong public opinion is generated for poll reforms.

The rising expenditure on fighting elections has effectively closed the doors for political aspirations of honest and ordinary citizens. “The agitation against corruption should be broadbased if we have to score at least some success against corruption. Stringent electoral reforms are needed to strike at the root cause of corruption,” said Trilochan Shastry, founder and chairman of Association for Democratic Reforms.

With most of the candidates spending more than Rs10crore, at the most conservative estimate, in assembly elections and over Rs20cr to Rs50cr in Lok Sabha polls, it is anybody’s guess as to what will be the first priority of these candidates after winning.

The Election Commission seized Rs50crore in hard cash during the recent assembly polls in Tamil Nadu. According to Trilochan Shastry, about Rs40,000 crore of black money is involved in the electoral battle for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. “Once such a huge amount is spent, the priority would be to recover it fast.

The electoral reforms with stringent penal clauses is the need of the hour. Disqualification of candidates from contesting any elections for misuse of money power would go a long way in curbing poll malpractices. We often see candidates going to campaign with a convoy of hundreds of vehicles, money and booze being distributed. Most of the time the offenders escape with a reprimand or a fine. Change in law with strong penal clause is needed.”

Sandeep Shastry, political analyst and pro-vice chancellor of Jain University advocates the need for curbing use of black money in elections to win the battle against corruption.” India cannot afford to bear the poll expense of candidates, but we can consider state subsidy for poll expenses. We should look at possibilities of streamlining the modes of campaign and government subsidising part of the expenses. A comprehensive law to curb use of black money in elections is a must to tackle the menace of corruption.”

Compulsory democratisation of political parties is another measure to reform the way the political parties function and contest elections, Sandeep Shastry said.

“Holding party organisational elections mandatory and choosing the candidates to fight elections through democratic system instead of the culture of high command or an individual leader in the party on the basis of money power, caste or other considerations should be banned.”

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Hemanth Kumar
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