Sunday, May 28, 2006

Poll Observations

Kudos to Central Election Commission of India (CEC)

For successfully conducting the recently held TN assembly elections. The election was process by and large peaceful. While the CEC had to stagger the polling elsewhere over several days, it was held in a single day in Tamil Nadu.

CEC has become vocal and independent over the last decade since the days of TN Seshan. It has brought about some normality and due process to a task that is truly gargantuan. CEC totally eliminated wall grabbing / graffiti writing this time around and forced the various political parties erase graffiti that had already come up. It also closely monitored how candidates went around campaigning. CEC even sent notices to major political parties asking them to explain some of their actions. All this did have some salutary effect in the poll process.

However, I do have some suggestions for CEC to improve the process further.

Monitor & Control Media Spend: Both DMK & ADMK used their media capability unabashedly to the hilt. Of course, ADMK and its JayaTV was no match to SunTV, nevertheless, both flexed their media muzzle without any impunity. I donĂ‚’t know if this kind of media activity and spend is monitored by CEC now. If not, CEC must monitor, regulate and audit the whole media spend.

Rotate reserved constituencies: This is a contentious one. I didn'’t pay much attention to this unique Indian concept till Papparapatti & Keerapati became national news. Existing election process failed repeatedly in these two places because they are reserved for Dalits. Majority of folks in these two places resent the fact that their village leadership is reserved indefinitely denying them an opportunity to serve the place they call home.

The current process is unfair to both sides. On one side, it denies an opportunity for other communities in some constituencies to represent them and on the other side, locks Dalits to certain constituencies for ever. Why should Mangalore be always reserved and Mylapore be always open?

This hard reservation came about to force various political parties to give Dalits opportunity in the election process. If that is still required, then why not just rotate the constituencies? This gives Dalits an opportunity to compete from many places while giving a chance for other communities to represent some constituencies that are blocked our forever now.

Set a poll calendar: This will introduce much needed predictability and stability in the process. In the recently concluded elections, scorching heat prevented many people from exercising their franchise in several places. The heat even kept candidates and leaders indoors till about 4:00 PM shrinking their face time with the public.

Why not conduct the polls during a set time period? Say September / November/ December months of the year? Weather in most part of the country would be pleasant and conducive for electioneering.