In India, elections are the most important and integral part of politics in the democratic system. A strong democracy can function only when the elections are free and fair without manipulation. But for some certain reasons, democratic system doesn’t function properly and there is a general perception that something isn’t right in the electoral process.
Continuing the democratic process after Independence, India had successfully conducted elections at both national as well as State levels. The electoral system was largely free from any major flaw but it cracks began to appear at the fourth general elections (1967). More began to appear in the fifth general elections (1971) and these continued in the successive elections, especially in those held in the eighties and thereafter. The 1990s and 2000s also saw the centralization of power by parties and there was a gradual rise in units backed by family members leading to the internal politics within the parties. This resulted on the party’s dependence on candidates with their backing which could include grassroots mobilization of workers or business contractors with financial interests in the constituency. While the number of members of dynastic families in the 2014 Lokh Sabha has reduced, still many national and state parties have large numbers of members of political lineages.
Since electioneering is an expensive affair it plays an important role in India. But money power can play a destructive role in the electoral system. The elections in Indian polity are becoming increasingly expensive and the gap between the expenses incurred and legally permitted is on the rise over the years. Many observers have pointed out that huge money collected through the dubious means by political parties and their candidates. Besides, overflow of black money into the coffers of political parties have worsen the system where a vote is not a mean of public opinion but purchased. After money power, the rise in muscle power through violence, pre-election intimidation, riggings, booth capturing both silent and violent are largely prevalent throughout the country. By using of violence, the criminals are able to achieve success at elections for their benefactors.
Another important factor is the rising criminalisation of politics. During the election period, many newspapers and magazines are filled with information about the number of criminals in the fielded by every party. The primary reason is that these criminals enter into politics is to gain influence and ensure that cases against them are dropped or not proceeded with. They are able to make it big in the political arena because of their financial clout. In return, political parties are offered. Not just state or local parties, tickets were given to the candidates with criminal records even by prominent National Parties. In order to solve the complex problem Election Commission of India has sought to increase restrictions against the participation of criminals in elections and also limit the use of finance in elections. However, these changes couldn’t improve the overall health of the Indian political system.
Some of the possible solutions which can effective solve the problem are given below. The election Commission does not have an independent staff of its own. So they have to depend upon staff of Central and State Governments. The dual responsibility of the staff is not beneficial for impartiality and effective working of the commission. Many a times, disciplinary control over the staff deputed to do election work results in a confrontation between the ruling government and the commission.
In order to improve the working of Election Commission, the country’s top election body should not be at the mercy to the Executive and Parliament. The election commission should have a separate and independent election department to develop its objectivity and impartiality. To prevent corruption, adequate funds must be provided to genuine candidates through political parties whose account should be auditable. Moreover, candidate involving in corruption should be disqualified. The role of mass media is very important, since it should play a non-partisan role in the election. Every voter must be perfectly free to vote without any fear of consequences and without being unduly influenced by anyone by improper means and inducement or pressure of any kind. Besides, the secrecy of voters’ preference to any candidate should be maintained. Parliament must pass the necessary laws dealing with this serious problem of de-listing of valid electorates from electoral rolls. Preparation of electoral rolls by Election Commission must be thoroughly checked and supervised at village level and certificates from officials who prepare electoral rolls to the effect that the electoral rolls have been thoroughly revised. Serious action must be enforced on official when there is intentional exclusion of names of voters from electoral rolls. Judiciary on its part must enforce prompt action, if any kind of violation is detected during elections.