Hyderabad, July 6 (INN): Lok Satta Party national President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan has termed the Election Commission of India (ECI) notice to Gopinath Munde, MP, asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him for incurring electoral expenditure above the legally prescribed ceiling as “perfunctory, bureaucratic and ridiculous.”
Addressing a media conference here on Saturday, Dr. JP said that the ECI should treat Munde or any other such individual case as an opportunity to generate a serious public debate on electoral reforms and remedial action.
Dr. JP released a letter he has written to V. S. Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner, on the Munde issue.
In his letter, Dr. JP pointed out that an overwhelming majority of candidates across the country are spending enormous amounts that far exceed the prescribed limit on contesting elections. In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, an expenditure of Rs.5 crore is quite commonly incurred by candidates of each major party for the Assembly constituency and as much as Rs. 15-30 crore for a Lok Sabha seat. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee confirmed the scale and magnitude of this grave democratic distortion when he told a parliamentary committee that “every legislator starts his career with the lie of the false election return he files.” Munde, the Lok Sabha MP from Beed, has merely and openly acknowledged what has been public knowledge, all along, said Dr. JP.
Dr. JP pointed out that most of the electoral expenditure involves deployment of illegal, unaccounted for money for entirely illegitimate purposes such as vote-buying, distribution of liquor or offering other inducements. The Center for Media Studies (CMS)’s survey in Andhra Pradesh (in 2012) showed that the major parties are offering money to 60% of voters. Given this, voters are taking money from all the major candidates and voting for whoever they want. Further compounding this problem is the growing menace of “paid news”.
“Electoral expenditure may not guarantee victory but non-expenditure guarantees defeat. Huge investment in elections has thus become an entry fee to have a realistic chance of success. Rich man’s money is chasing poor man’s vote and whoever gets elected then controls the levers of the State and earns multiple returns from office. Corruption, abuse of office and authority are the inevitable outcomes of such an electoral system.”
The ECI should examine this issue clinically, comprehensively and dispassionately and strive to generate a serious public debate on electoral reforms and remedial action.
“Any such reforms must be focused on making rational and ethical politics sustainable by breaking the curse of the money power and constituency-based marginal vote and enabling men and women of commitment, caliber and broad public support to get elected.”
Dr. JP said that while the ECI has no powers to reform the electoral system, it certainly can catalyze a serious and fruitful debate among political parties, Government, media and civil society.
Dr. JP welcomed the Andhra Pradesh High Court order endorsing the judgment of the Gujarat High Court holding insertion of Part IXB in the 97th Amendment to the Constitution of 2011 ultra vires the Constitution of India. Even as the amendment recognized the formation of cooperative societies as a fundamental right, Part IXB sought to dilute cooperative societies’ autonomy by prescribing how they should function. The Gujarat High Court, while upholding other parts of the 97th Amendment, struck down its Part IXB.
Dr. JP said the Lok Satta will fight Government attempts to treat cooperative societies as private estates of the ruling party.
State Lok Satta Party President Katari Srinivasa Rao said that the Lok Satta would field candidates in 200 to 300 villages in panchayat elections.
State party General Secretary Ravi Maurth and Vice President D. V. V. S. Varma took part in the media meet. (INN)