The Department of Political Science organized an extension lecture by the former Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr. S.Y. Quraishi on “Governance and Democracy: Need for electoral reforms.” The lecture was held at the Dayar-e-Mir Taqi Mir Building, on Wednesday, 31 October 2012. [Link to Audio]
Dr. Quraishi began his talk with the importance of governance in a democracy and how the two are interrelated in a country. “Quality of governance is an indicator of the civilization of that country,” he said. In a country with an electorate of about 728 million, managing elections is a massive task for India’s election commission. “This is the biggest event management of the world,” he said. Dr. Quraishi asserted that an index of India’s successful democracy is the conduct of peaceful and credible elections.
Dr. Quraishi stated that about 11 million people were recruited and trained by the election commission of India for the last general election for zero error election. He briefed about the challenges facing a plural democracy in respect to elections and how the election commission ensures peaceful elections, transparency, and credibility and makes sure that every single vote is counted.
Dr. Quraishi went on to cite the sources from which the Election Commission derives its power. The sources include the constitution, the laws made by the Parliament, the Supreme Court, media, political parties, bureaucracy and the people. “They (political parties) are also responsible for quality of elections in India because the ‘model code of conduct’ is a voluntarily code created by political parties themselves and although it is not a law but the compliance is more than compliance to any law of the land … A notice issued by the Election Commission will send shivers down the spine of any politician,” he said.
Speaking about the role of the country’s bureaucracy in the successful conduct of elections, Dr. Quraishi said that “bureaucracy when it comes under EC, it delivers.” He then briefed about the special provisions and facilities the EC provides for the minorities, women, weaker sections of the society and the handicapped.
“What use is democracy without your participation, unless you come and vote,” he said in regard to voter education. Denouncing people’s pride in not voting during elections, he said, “Instead of a fashion statement, we have to convert it into a statement of shame and embarrassment.” However, at the same time Dr. Quraishi did not agree with the idea of making voting compulsory as often proposed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and veteran politician L.K. Advani. “It (compulsory voting) is not administratively feasible … Suppose there is a law that it is compulsory for you to vote and if you don’t vote, there will be a criminal case filed against you. In last general election, 30 crore people did not vote. So there will be 30 crore court cases.”
Recalling one of the most popular campaigns by the EC as part of the voter education, the “pappu campaign” in which the EC ridiculed the non-voters, Dr. Quraishi said, “After the ‘pappu campaign’ we had a substantial increase in voter turnout.”
Speaking on usage of technology by the EC, Dr. Quraishi said, “We use all kinds of high technology except in EVM where we use the lowest possible technology, a 17th century basic calculator by choice. We are an IT superpower but we don’t want to use IT there because even this simple technology is questioned that it can be hacked.”
Concluding his presentation with electoral reforms proposal, he talked about the need to monitor the criminals, money, power, paid news, party funding. Calling money-power as the largest source of corruption in the country, he said that if through electoral reforms money power and criminals could be debarred from elections, “from the largest democracy, we’ll become the greatest democracy on earth.”
Download and listen to the complete talk here: Talk by S.Y. Quraishi on “Governance and Democracy: Need for Electoral Reforms” at Jamia Millia Islamia on Oct. 31, 2012 – [Format: MP3; Duration: 1 hour 45 minutes; Size: 36 MB]