New Delhi: The prevalence of money and
muscle power in elections has created a situation where
ordinary people do not get a level-playing field, Chief
Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi said on Wednesday.
Asked at an anti-corruption summit here if any common man
can enter politics and expect a level-playing field in polls,
he said, "At the present moment, the answer is no."
"If you have money in lakhs and crores you have a chance.
Or if you are a `dada` (strongman), you have a chance. People
talk against limiting poll expense. But otherwise no ordinary
person gets a chance. If one party puts up a dada, the other
will field a bigger dada, so it is a level-playing field only
for those guys," he said evoking laughter among the audience.
He said though some propose state funding, it will only
help established political parties. "Moreover, state funding
will not guarantee a stop in use of black money or in
distribution of sarees or dhotis, liquor parties or fake
marriage parties during election time."
The CEC said after the assembly elections, the commission
will push for the proposal to have political parties accept
donations and spend only through cheques. "The audited
accounts should be in public domain so that people can know
which business houses are donating to a party or if they are
getting any concessions later," he said.
Quraishi said there is considerable anger among people
against corruption but cautioned that they should not "paint
all politicians black".
"Without them there would be no democracy. We should not
forget that there is no law for model code of conduct for
elections. Politicians created it and are complying with it."
He said there is need for a "juristic formulation" for
debarring people with criminal antecedents from polls.
"Parties say that in politics, often false cases are
filed. And everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Fair
enough. But we should consider that among four lakh people in
jails, 2.68 lakh are undertrials. The same thing applies to
them too. We need proper formulation on debarring criminals."
He said often election petitions take a long time to be
decided in courts though there is a time-frame under law.
While asking people in urban areas to come out in larger
numbers to vote, he said citizen`s cooperation is key to
tackle electoral corruption, which is the "mother of all
corruption". He said in Tamil Nadu, common people approached
EC with complaints on freebies and use of money, effectively
helping the commission to curb those.
M G Devasahayam, convenor of the recently launched Forum
for Electoral Integrity, said political parties had been
flaying the EC for the stringent steps in assembly elections
in TN but they should actually support its endeavour.
Ensuring internal democracy in parties and introducing
right to recall and negative vote are among other suggestions
made by speakers at the summit.