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The Mother India

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

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An Open Letter to Political Parties

It is good to note that an all-party meeting is being held on July 8 to discuss electoral reforms. In a democracy, the primacy of political process and supremacy of parliament must be universally respected and strengthened. The strident criticism of political activity and revulsion of politics exhibited unthinkingly by some is a source of great concern to true lovers of liberty and defenders of democracy. 

We believe what India needs is more politics, not less; and more democracy, not less. Political parties are the most vital instruments for involving people in political action, and therefore our effort should be to strengthen them and make them more effective. The many concerned citizens who are distancing themselves from politics need to be engaged in political process. Above all, we should work towards enhancing legitimacy of the democratic process by simple, practical, effective reforms. 

All the major political parties have been expressing deep concern about electoral reforms. Many committees and experts have studied the subject. The Election Commission is doing its best to uphold the sanctity of our electoral process. But a lot more remains to be done. Voter registration is still flawed, and studies indicate many eligible voters’ names are missing, and ineligible names find place in electoral rolls. This can be corrected by making voter registration simpler, more people-friendly and accessible by utilizing the local post offices as a nodal agency. Similarly polling irregularities, which are still common, can be curbed by simple steps. Political parties ought to be strengthened by amendments to X schedule of the Constitution, and effective checks against defections, even as the members legitimate right to dissent is respected. Internal democratic norms in parties should be revitalized and more and more people must be attracted to play a meaningful role in political process. Representational legitimacy needs to be enhanced by providing for general elections based on party platform and party lists. Parties and candidates are starved of legitimate funds for political activity. We need to strengthen their hands by providing tax incentives to political contributions, strengthening disclosure norms promoting transparency, and providing for public funding in a verifiable and fair manner. All these and other reforms are crying for attention. 

These are obviously the deep concerns of politicians whose hard work and commitment are sustaining our democratic process and defending our liberty. Fortunately, we also have several non-partisan and public spirited organizations all over the country who are committed to this cause of strengthening democracy. Association for Democratic Reforms, AGNI, Common Cause, Lok Sevak Sangh, Transparency International, CYSD, Public Affairs Center, Catalyst Trust, Parivartan, Centre for Media Studies, Concerned Citizens for Calcutta, PUCL, Lok Satta and many other organizations are forming a broad coalition to further this cause. Several jurists, experts, administrators and activists are also involved in this process.  

Ultimately, the success of the democratic process depends on our respecting the right of the voter to full information about the background of individual candidates. This right is reiterated by the recent Supreme Court judgment. It will strengthen the political process and help to weed out corrupt and criminal elements from making a way into legislatures which are the custodians of our constitution. In this context it is paramount that the political parties wholeheartedly endorse the recent Election Commission order dated June 28. We enclose a brief note which should dispel any reservations/apprehensions about this order in any quarter. 

The people of India look up to you, the political parties and public representatives for leadership and direction to defend liberty, strengthen democracy and respect people’s sovereignty. We most earnestly urge you to take this opportunity to fortify electoral reforms which shield our legislatures from persons of dubious background, strengthen our democracy and enhance popular respect for the political process. 

LOK SATTA

New Delhi, July 6, 2002

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“Save your country from criminal politicians”

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-----Tirumala Srinivas

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