| by N.S.Venkataraman

( April 14, 2014, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the past elections, several criminals and corrupt persons have comfortably won the elections and got a say in the country’s governance. One can be sure that the forthcoming parliamentary poll will be no different. Almost every political party have given seats to some corrupt and criminal persons and much shouting aam aadmi party is no exception. Should we blame the political parties who nominate such criminal candidates or the people who vote for them and enable them to win.

The problem in India’s electoral democracy is that large section of the people attach less importance to the particular candidate contesting but give importance only to the political party that the candidate belongs to .

The quality of electoral democracy in India can improve only if the people would look for the right and credible candidate to give their vote, whatever party they may belong to. This approach is particularly appropriate in today’s scenario when people have nothing much to choose between the political parties or the leadership of the parties.

However, in the past , several independent candidates with good track record and principled approach have contested in the elections but have lost badly, losing their deposits. The voters have certainly ignored such candidates and even the media rarely recognise them. Such independent candidates have been conspicuous in the election fray due to their lack of money power and muscle power.

In the present situation, unless a candidate would get himself nominated by one political party or the other, there is little chance of the person getting elected. It is not clear as to why the voters have developed distaste for independent candidates . Perhaps, the voters think that an independent candidate in the parliament can do little , as every decision in the parliament is taken on the basis of voting and the party enjoying majority can alone rule.

Under the circumstances, the quality of Indian electoral democracy can improve only if the political parties would insist on minimum standards in terms of integrity, public service and education on the part of the candidate for nomination. In this 2014 parliamentary election also , no party has adopted such an approach in the choice of the candidate but only has been guided by loyalty to the political leadership. This has become the real issue in improving the quality of the members of parliament and performance standards of the parliamentary proceedings.

In this dismal scenario, the only option is to lay more stringent guidelines and rules for nomination of candidates by the political parties. While some steps have been taken largely due to the verdict of the Supreme Court on prevention of those convicted of criminal charges from contesting in the elections.

Unfortunately, the election Commission, which is a constitutional body and with huge responsibility in cleansing the process of electoral democracy has become very ineffective and is really functioning as a mere administrative body. Today, election Commission is almost functioning like yet another government department, routinely making noises about conducting elections in a fair manner and issuing some notices to the misbehaving political parties and candidates and ending up as mere paper tiger.

Unless the judiciary and election commission would act with the devoted objective of ensuring candidates from contesting elections who are not involved in corrupt and criminal practices, there can be no solution for the problem. One cannot expect the politicians to act decisively in cleansing the conditions for obvious reasons.

Today, voters are often left as faceless creatures routinely exercising their franchise based on electoral campaigns and advertisement blitz of political parties and they are left with little choice in electing honest and good candidate.

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