The Pioneer

The eighth national conference on Electoral and Political Reforms concluded here urging upon the Union Government to bring a comprehensive legislation to regulate the functioning of political parties to ensure inner party democracy and financial transparency.

The political parties should be declared as Public Authorities so that their functioning could be transparent and be made more accountable, the conference resolved.

The two-day conference organised by the National Election Watch in collaboration with the Odisha Election Watch, was attended by over 400 delegates belonging to  Election Watch groups of more than 22 States, various NGOs and activists, eminent citizens, media personalities, representatives of all major political parties and other stakeholders from all over the country.

Discussions took place on various aspects of electoral and political issues, particularly the issues concerning financial transparency and inner-party democracy of the political parties.

Concerns were also expressed over the increasing role of media in electoral mal-practices and its impact on news coverage, said Ranjan Mohanty, coordinator, Odisha Election Watch and Anil Bairwal, national coordinator, NEW.

Releasing the 12 resolutions unanimously adopted at the conference, they said in order to check criminalisation of politics, there is an urgent need to debar candidates with criminal antecedents from contesting elections. Political parties and leaders of political parties should be held responsible for giving tickets to criminal elements, they said.

Stating that there is a need to have reforms in political parties as far as election process is concerned, they said ticket distribution process should be made transparent and should be decided by registered members of political parties.

Besides, the internal elections for the offices of political parties should be done through secret ballot and the “culture of unanimous selection” of the office bearers must stop, a resolution said.

Since lots of money is being pumped into political parties and money power is playing a role in purchase of votes in most cases, the accounts of political parties, the conference recommended to the Election Commission of India to ensure audit of the accounts of the political parties by CAG-appointed auditors.

While the conference recommended to the Central Government to pass strict laws to punish candidates involved in electoral malpractices, particularly for buying of votes, it also urged for implementation of ceiling on expenses of political parties during election period and to take strict action against candidates who fail to file their election expenses.

In a bid to put restriction on bureaucrats and party changers, the conference also recommended that there should be a cooling off period of 5 years before which bureaucrats or people who have changed their parties are allowed to contest elections on tickets of a political party.

Proposing that the requirement for winning elections should be “50% + 1 of the registered votes cast, the conference also resolved that voting machines should have the option “None of the above”. If the election in a constituency results in the “None of the above” getting maximum number of votes, there should be a re-poll and the candidates who contested should not be allowed to re-contest in that election, they said.

The NEW also suggested more women participation in the political process while leaders belonging to various political parties- Union Minister Srikanth Jena of INC, UP Revenue Minister Ambika Choudhury of SP, former Minister Panchanan Kanungo called for urgent electoral and political reforms. Union Minister Jena said, “Parliamentary system is getting diluted since there are hardly any debates or discussions and hence there is a need to reform the political system as well as political parties.”

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