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Saturday, 12 February 2011

National Election Watch - 7th National Conference at IIT Chennai - Inauguration

12th Feb 2011
Inaugural Session
Live reproting from Central Lecture Theatre, Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai
Reporting by K. Srinivasan, T P Kurian, Jerin Jacob Matthew, Binny Alexander
The Conference started with Tamil Anthem and National Anthem.
Mr Trilolchan Sastry, Co-Founder of this movement and Dean of IIM, Bangalore welcomed the audience.
Mr G Devasahaytam, Convenor of Forum for Election Integrity is making the opening reforms and presenting the theme of this two-day conference.
Dr S Y Qurashi, Chief Election Commissioner of India
India has the largest population of voters in the world.  Our model code of conduct is the 'best' in the world.  
Though we blame the bureaucracy, the same bureaucracy is conducting the elctions properly.
Media is supplementing the election works.  They send the cameras to the field and bring out the election violations. Civil society has shown the maturity by analysing the works of politicians.

Some reform proposals are pending for nearly 18 to 20 years.  Election Commission has been taking up with the Government.  I also talked to Mr Veerappa Moily, the Law Minister and we decided to organise regional and national symposiums to discuss about the electoral reforms.  We have already started the symposiums at various centres.  Prime Minister will be participating int he National Symposium.  Then, the final conclusion will be brought to the Parliament.

First item of the agenda is to bar criminals from contesting elections.Political parties are opposing this.  They fear this will be a short-cut for the opposing parties to frame charges and to bar the politicians from contesting elections. We are trying to get a via-media solutions.  Only rapes, murder will be taken into consideration.

Political parties need to be more transparent in their source of income.  '"Elections are becoming the biggest source of corruption".  People are asking what Election is doing.   Increasing the expenditure is not a solution. 
If a party puts up a criminal candidate, other parties are hesitant to put up another good candidate.  Same way  is for money also.  Level playing is the mantra of election commission. 

Many people are suggesting 'state funding'.  I am sceptical about this.  
We are seeking ban of advertisments six months in advance of the elections.  We also suggest advertisements and door to door campaign should be banned in the last 48 hours before the election.  That is the time, where money changes.  "48 hours should be allowed to the voters to decide, after two weeks of hectic campaign".

Opinion polls interfere with free and fair poll.  Paid news is another main challenge.  They need to be banned. 

Mr Gopalakrishna Gandhi, Former Governor of West Bengal  (He is the grand son of Mahatma Gandhi and Rajaji)

In the pre-independent India, elections were held with more integrity.  

Rajaji wrote 25 years before the freedom, predicted that injustice and efficiency of governance after independence, may make the people to think that earlier regime was better.  This has become true now.

In 1937, When Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Sastri went for election campaign, they had to take tea in a railway platform and they did not have enourgh money.  This has been written by Lal Bahadur Sastry.

Now, black money with white money made the whole system 'grey'.  Corporate funding has made independent candidates suffer.  

Çurrencies coming to election scene in trucks and vehicles is causing serious concern. 

In 1957, Tata Steel wanted to make contributions to political parties.  Even the Courts held at that time, íntegrity of voters are more important.  Voters should refuse to accept any consideration for their votes.  

Organisations and NGOs who are watching elections, should maintain the highest probity and they should not accept foreign donations.  Media needs soul  searching.

NGOs should reward and award the candidates, whether they win or lose, for their electoral conduct.  Election Commission should also ensure that the environment pollution is not made by the candidates during the election campaign. 


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