Since the present regime has promised to bring about electoral reforms before they call for fresh elections, I am proposing a few pivotal reforms: primarily to thwart the monopoly where less than 5 percent of our population are even able to contest elections. The fact is that election campaigns are beyond the reach of most of the people: electoral expenditures go into crores (tens of millions of rupees). The current regulations put expenditure caps of 4 million rupees (40 lakhs) for a national assembly candidate, and 2 million rupees (20 lakhs) for a provincial assembly seat. The figure is 1.5 million rupees (15 lakhs) for running for the Senate. These amounts are inclusive of contributions by their financiers. But these stipulated rules are ruthlessly violated and no watchdog holds candidates accountable.
The ongoing Foreign Funding Case against the former ruling party is a case in point. It is yet another mega-reflection of the de facto exorbitant expenditures that are incurred in activities leading to elections, as well as during elections themselves.
I would suggest that if the present regime and the current opposition are honest to their commitment to democracy and the people, they should reduce the stipulated expenditures to half and on top ensure its implementation in letter and spirit. Violations of the stipulated rules/laws should be addressed with stringent punishments, including imprisonments, huge fines etc. Instead of merely filing petitions against violations to the Election Commission (which are endlessly delayed), the local administration, who are monitoring on the spot, should be initially penalised heavily for letting all this happen under their very nose.
As per even the present expenditures allowed under law, at least 95 percent of our populace is practically excluded from the possibility of contesting these elections. And we have not yet begun to discuss the situation of Local Bodies polls .They, too, are out of the reach of the common people.
My suggestion is that the expenditures should be legislatively halved. Moreover, in letter and spirit, the spending limits should be such which are affordable by the common people.
Secondly, the system of proportional representation (also known as the “List System”) is a viable option, whereby not only the expenditures of individual candidates are reduced, but the party must put up candidates on merit – because that reflects the quality of the party. And thirdly, it should also be legislated that an aspiring candidate who doesn’t have membership of a party should be barred from contesting on that party’s ticket.
This could go a long way in discouraging Lotacracy.