Hindustan Times
Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi

Ending his 13-day fast on Sunday, social activist Anna Hazare declared his next line of action -- campaign for electoral reforms and people’s participation in allocation of land resources, considered key to fight corruption. "I am glad that Annaji took up these issues," said Trilochan Sastry, former dean of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and founder member of civil society group Association for Democratic Reforms. "We need a comprehensive bill on electoral reforms like the Lokpal Bill to check electoral corruption."

Sastry’s sentiments were amply portrayed by Hazare in the morning when he said electoral reforms are need of the hour to weed out corruption. "We have to reform electoral system. We need 'right to reject' and 'right to recall'," Hazare said.

He outlined what it meant when he said that right to recall would be for those elected and right to reject will be a column in a ballot paper which would ensure that the voter has a right to say that he does not like any of the listed candidates.

Right to recall is applicable in some states such as Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in case of elected representatives in the Panchayati Raj bodies but is not applicable in case of MPs and MLAs.

Although the Election Commission of India provide a register where a voter can lodge his or her dislike for listed candidates but having a Right to Reject would mean declaring an election void, if more than half of the votes polled are in the category none of the above.

"If the majority in a constituency says that they reject a candidate, even then the election should be cancelled. How much money they (candidates) will distribute? Once the candidate spends Rs 10 crore for one election and if the election is cancelled, then right sense will dawn upon them," Hazare said.

Hazare even has Election Commission’s support on the issue of right to reject. "Currently there is no way for voters to express their dislike for all candidates," said the commission’s note on electoral reforms in 2010.

"In such a system there could be a provision whereas if a certain percentage of the vote is negative/neutral, then the election results could be nullified and a new election conducted,” the commission said.

Hazare’s call for listening to voice of gram sabha (village body), where allowing extraction of natural resources is already a matter of concern for the government. "We are coming with land acquisition law providing for consent of gram sabha," said rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. There is Forest Rights Law, which makes consent of gram sabha mandatory to allowing any mining and industrial activity on forest land inhabited by tribal communities.

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