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The Mother India

  A Home page to achieve Electoral reforms, true democracy & citizens sovereignty in India


From: "LokSatta" <>
To: "Tirumala Srinivas" <>
Subject: Update on National Campaign
Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2002 05:12:30 +0530

Update on National Campaign

Dear Friends,
A lot has happened over the past few days. The all-party meeting, responses of leading parliamentarians, media coverage of the events, editorial comments – all these are in the public domain, and we need not list them here. Let me focus on the campaign for electoral reforms.
On 9th July the meeting was held with all activists spearheading the campaign. Among others the following participated:
Sri L.C.Jain                                                                     Dr.Subash Kashyap                
Dr.N Bhaskara Rao(CMS)                                                Sri Kuldip Nayar              
Sri Ajay Ranaade(ADR)                                                    Justice Rajinder Sachar
Dr. Trilochan Sastry (ADR)                                               Admiral Tahiliani (Transparency International)
Sri Sharad Kumar (AGNI, Mumbai)                                   Sri Jagadaananda (CYSD, Orissa)
Mrs Tara Sinha                                                               Sri A K Venkatasubrahmanian (Catalyst Trust, Chennai)
Prof. Partha Shah (Centre for Civil Society)                       General Vinod Saighal
Ms. Maja Daruwala (CHRI)                                              Ms. Pinky Anand
Sri Suresh Balakrishnan ( Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore)
Dr.Manmohan Malhoutra (Rajiv Gandhi Foundation)
Sri Sanjay Parikh (PUCL)                                                Sri  Aravind Kumar ( Parivartan)
Sri Promod Chawla (Parivartan)                                        Sri Manish Sisodia (Parivartan)
Sri Naveen Surapaneni (CMS)                                          Sri Nahata                       
Sri H K Singh                                                                 Sri A N Kaul
Sri Pankaj Agarwal (Transparency International)       
There were several other colleagues and representatives of participating organizations. Scores of other organizations and hundreds of activists and concerned citizens sent messages of support.
One excellent news is we now have strong endorsements and commitment to lead the effort from four of India’s leading civil society movements. Ms. Aruna Roy and Nikhil De sent a warm message expressing unreserved support and willingness to guide the effort. They also pledged the support and participation of partner organizations in National Campaign for Right to Information. This is excellent news, and will immeasurably strengthen the campaign for electoral reforms. Ms. Aruna Roy’s distinguished leadership and acceptability will be of immense value.
Sri Manubhai Shah of CERC and Sri RM Tripathi of AVARD pledged strong support and leadership. The leadership of these stalwarts with vast experience and insights will greatly strengthen us.
I have had the privilege of interacting with Sri Anna Hazare recently, and we can count on his blessings, leadership and guidance.
The meeting was lively and candid, and the discussion was rich and insightful. It was decided to launch a National Campaign for Electoral Reforms. The details of the meeting, names of some of the key participating/supporting organizations, and those of several activists and concerned citizens who are promoting the effort are enclosed.
One key decision at the meeting was to educate the public and explain to parties and media that the Supreme Court’s directive was in pursuance of right to information guaranteed to citizens as per Art 19 (1) of the Constitution, and cannot in any way be construed as usurpation of legislature’s jurisdiction.
In the pursuance of the decisions at the meeting, a letter was sent to all political parties, along with clarifications on the EC’s order. These have already been communicated to all friends.
A press meet was held on 10th July at CMS, New Delhi. The Citizens’ view point was explained to the media.
One of the key decisions at the meeting was to meet leadership of the political parties explain to them citizens’ point of view, allay some of their apprehensions, and seek their support for the disclosure norms.
Accordingly, Sri Kuldip Nayar, Admiral Tahiliani, Ms Maja Daruwala, Dr. N Bhaskara Rao, Gen.Vinod Saighal, Dr.Trilochan Sastry and I called on Dr.Manmohan Singh, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha at 11 AM on 11th July. The interaction was extremely fruitful.
Dr.Singh explained to us that Congress Party was in principle in favour of disclosures. However, he felt that the discretion given to the Returning Officer to verify the details furnished, and reject the nomination in case of defects of substantial character in the affidavit poses a great hurdle. If the Election Commission ensures that the ROs do not have any discretion to decide on the veracity of disclosures, then Congress may be in a position to support the disclosures.
The delegation called on the President of BJP, Sri Venkiah Naidu at 3 PM on 11th July. Sri Naidu appreciated the efforts of non-partisan, concerned citizens. He was particularly appreciative of the sensitivity of the National Campaign in not projecting politics and parties as villains. He explained that the government has announced its intention to bring in suitable legislation. He promised to bring our views and contents of National Campaign’s letter to the notice of the Dy. Prime Minister Sri L K Advani, Law Minister Sri Jana Krishnamurthy and Minister of State for Law Sri Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The group had impromptu discussion after these meetings. The broad view which emerged from the two meetings was, while disclosure of details at the time of nomination was necessary for the health of our democracy and therefore non-negotiable, there is a case for reconsidering the discretionary power given to the Returning Officer to reject a nomination if he concludes that the disclosures suppressed information, or there was false disclosure. The view emerged that realistically there is no time or opportunity before scrutiny of nominations to verify the truth of disclosures. Also the apprehensions of parliamentarians that the ROs might act in an arbitrary way are genuine, though not well-founded.
It was therefore decided that the National Campaign should bring to the Election Commission’s notice that the difficulties political parties foresee, and ask the Commission to address these legitimate concerns. The group was unanimous in the view that non-disclosure, or blank proformas under any major head should entail rejection of nomination. We can only ask the EC to consider clarifying that the RO would not have any arbitrary or discretionary power.
Accordingly an appointment was sought with the CEC. In a brief meeting at 4.30 PM on 11th July, Sri J M Lyngdoh, and EC Sri T S Krishnamurthy, this view of major political parties was explained to the Commission. The Commission promised to examine the issue in all aspects and take a considered view on the matter.
As can be seen from the minutes of the meeting, four groups were constituted to guide the various facets of the campaign from Delhi. Sri Kuldip Nayar, Admiral Tahiliani, Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao, General Vinod Saighal and others have agreed to meet other major political parties and seek their support for disclosures, and electoral reforms.
Sri L C Jain and the activists with grassroots support and contacts have agreed to involve all other like-minded voluntary organizations, movements and activists in the campaign.
Sri S V Sista, Mrs. Tara Sinha, Dr.N.Bhaskara Rao and Ms. Maja Daruwala have agreed to coordinate the public education campaign and media strategies.
All these groups will use the National Campaign for Electoral reforms to pursue the activities and take all necessary steps from time to time in pursuance of the decisions of the National Campaign meetings.
The next meeting can be held in Delhi after the situation about the proposed law becomes clearer.
All activities may kindly be intimated to the two coordinating centers given below:
Dr. N Bhaskara Rao
Community Centre, Saket,
New Delhi – 110017
Ph: 011- 6867348, 6864020, 6851660  Fax: 011-6968282
407, Nirmal Towers
Hyderabad – 500082
Ph: 040-3350778, 3350790, 3352487 Fax: 040-3350783
This will facilitate effective communication to all and better coordination.
To sum up, while the parties’ public stance seems clear, there are several shades of opinion when you delve deeper. There are four possible scenarios:
a) The EC will address the parties’ concerns about the discretionary powers of ROs. Then the major parties may reconsider the issue and support the disclosure norms as per EC’s order.
b) EC will not address these concerns, and the ‘discretion’ in the hands of the ROs as “unguided missiles” will be an irritant, and parties will write to bring in an alternative, but diluted legislation.
c) The EC will issue a clarification; but the parties may anyway go ahead with a legislation which satisfies them, even if it means public dissatisfaction.
d) Parliament may legislate a law in keeping with public opinion clearly expressed, but excluding the discretion to RO. In this case, Parliament may see it as assertion of its own legitimate role, and it is more an issue of principle than the outcome.
Obviously, all of us would be happy to see either (a) or (d) to come true. We will have to respond to the situation as it emerges. Meanwhile our campaign to consolidate public opinion will have to continue, with each of us playing our roles. We should, of course be in constant consultation to be able to quickly respond to the developing situation.
with warm regards
Jayaprakash Narayan
Lok Satta
401/408 Nirmal Towers
Dwarakapuri Colony, Punjagutta
Hyderabad - 500 082
Tel: 040 3350778/3350790
Fax: 040 3350783





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