New Delhi: Elections have become the biggest source of corruption in India, former chief election commissioner (CEC) SY Quraishi has said, while stressing for the need for poll reforms.
"Elections have become the biggest source of corruption in the country," Quraishi said on Friday while delivering a lecture at the British Council here.
"Political power is strong and competition bitter. Involvement of criminals and booth capturing are the challenges," he said.
According to Quraishi, the nexus between politicians and the bureaucracy begins the moment a politician becomes a minister and starts the process of recovering the money spent in contesting the polls.
The former poll panel chief mentioned the fact that 162 of the 543 Lok Sabha members had criminal charges pending against them and the number had gone up from 124 in the previous Lok Sabha.
Quraishi said political parties had reservations on banning criminals from contesting the elections, saying that cases could be lodged against them by political opponents.
"We said ban those against whom cases were registered or charges framed in a court six months ago," he said.
Pointing at a positive aspect of the Indian elections, that good governance was increasingly becoming a vote catcher, Quraishi said that competitive populism was its side effect.
"Parties offer colour TVs, washing machines, laptops to voters," said Quraishi.
However, he said that given the poverty levels in the country, it was good that poor people were getting something.
"This has led to a war of the manifestos," he said.
"But there is nothing wrong in a political party promising things. It is not a bribe as it is paid through the public exchequer," he said.
"Good economics was bad politics in India," Quraishi said.
He said that political interference leads to compromise in bureaucracy, and that conducting general elections in the country was the largest such exercise in the world.
"The number of voters that we deal with would equal around 50 countries of Europe and 56 countries of the Americas," he said.
"And it is a zero error exercise," he said.