The 23rd Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), Sunil Arora while assuring to continue to put the best foot forward to meet the expectations of all the stakeholders strictly in consonance and in conformity with the vision and ideals of the Constitution, had informed that Election Commission had appointed a committee led by Senior Deputy EC Umesh Sinha to review the various facets of Section 126 of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, and its report is likely to be submitted by December 30.
He was speaking to the media immediately after assuming office on December 2, 2018, a day after O.P. Rawat demitted the office, and sought support from all the stakeholders for conducting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. President Ram Nath Kovind had on November 27 appointed Arora to the post.
Arora will have a nearly two and a half year tenure as CEC till April 2021, during which he would preside over the general election in 2019, besides elections to Assemblies of Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, Delhi, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir.
More than revisiting Section 126(1) in The Representation of the People Act, 1951, the EC of India has begun preparations for the upcoming Lok Sabha General Election and has convened a meeting of all recognized national and state parties on August 27, 2018 to discuss various issues including the fidelity of electoral rolls and gender representation in political parties, ahead of the coming elections to Lok Sabha and for Assemblies.
A Press Communiqué from the Commission said that while considering that political parties are stakeholders in the Indian electoral system, it has been periodically holding consultations with all recognized political parties to elicit their views on important issues and to strengthen the democratic system by improving electoral systems and practices.
On the issue of fidelity of electoral rolls electoral rolls, the Commission would like to have the views of parties on measures to improve the accuracy, transparency and inclusivity of electoral rolls in view of the coming elections. The views are also invited on measures that parties can undertake to enhance representation of women within the organisational structure of the political party as well as in the candidate selection for contesting elections to legislative bodies.
The issue of election expenditure, regulation, expenditure ceiling for legislative council election and limiting political parties’ expenditure would also be discussed. Also the discussion on enforcement measures to ensure timely submission of annual audited reports and election expenditure reports are also on the agenda.
Another issue that will come up in the meeting relates to election campaign silence period. The discussion on this topic would also cover inclusion of print media within the ambit of the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the issue of online canvassing to promote or prejudice the electoral prospects of a party or candidate on social media during last 48 hours before conclusion of polling.
Important issues like alternative modes of voting for domestic migrants and absentee voters, and the views and feedback of the political parties regarding efforts to encourage participation of voters with disabilities will also be discussed.
The Commission said views and feedback of political parties regarding its efforts to expand outreach and encourage broad based inclusive electoral participation will also be invited, however, at ground zero, almost every state have the similar complaints of genuine voters for generations failed to acquire the Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC), either due to miscarriage of executive powers, where no reasons will be provided to the applicants, or due to various local issues of individual states, which the pressure groups overpowered the Fundamental Rights of the section of the societies by opposing their application in the name of illegal settlers or D-Voters, where there is neither a grievances cell or Tribunal to hear the victimized applicants. It is time EC seek the reports of the reasons for the rejection of the application forms such that none of the Fundamental Rights are violated.
The recognised national and state parties had just suggested the discussion of election expenditure, regulation, expenditure ceiling for legislative council election and limiting political parties’ expenditure, which many surveys have revealed is the genesis of corruption and money power, where most of the individual candidates keep an account on how much they spend in the election process, which is to be recollected once elected. Hence, most of the progressive work either of Central or MLA schemes is only carried out in the last two years of the term, also to showcase the work to the electorate, as most of them have short memories if the work is carried out from the first year itself.
Under such circumstances, through the proposed All Parties Meet, the EC should also advocate for every individual elected member of Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies to submit a Progress Report of their work, and how the MLA Schemes and Central schemes are distributed or spent as this will make every elected representative accountable.
The EC through the meeting should also be stern on either individual candidates or political parties for using religion as an election agenda, which from time again has divided the society rather than upholding the spirit of Secularism that India professes. Then only will we see the fidelity of electoral rolls and be able to strengthen the democratic system by improving electoral system and practices.