Recently, the Election Commission of India bemoaned that the Model Code of Conduct is being seriously violated by political parties and called for a full adherence of the code.

Recently, the Election Commission of India bemoaned that the Model Code of Conduct is being seriously violated by political parties and called for a full adherence of the code.

There was nothing stunning or astonishing in the list of violations that the Election Commission came up with. It included all those acts that political parties of the ruling class have been regularly practicing all these years to capture political power and keep the people out of reckoning.

The Commission has observed that apart from making derogatory remarks against each other, candidates, office bearers and leaders of political parties are resorting to “highly provocative and inflammatory statements that have the effect of inciting communal hatred or ill-will, and aggravating the differences between different classes of citizens on grounds of religion, caste, community, etc.”

The Commission has also admitted that political parties have been openly distributing money in the name of “local customs” to buy votes.

Lamenting that with each passing day the Commission is being flooded with reports of such violations, it has requested political parties to adopt “desirable standards” in future and ensure a “free and fair poll”.

While the Commission has not distinguished between big and small political parties in its castigation, the reference is obviously to big political parties who have the money and muscle power and who have consistently used violence and communal terror to divide the polity and terrorise the voters into accepting the prevailing process of parliamentary democracy.

The entire system of parliamentary democracy, where elections are organized once in five years and the only role of voters is to vote for this or that political party of the ruling class, hinges on criminalization, communalization and money and muscle power. This is the very life blood of this party-dominated system of democracy. If the Election Commission expects the big political parties to renounce all these essentials, then either it is deluding itself or deluding the people. The latter seems more likely.

It is precisely by following these practices, not only during the elections but before and after as well, that political parties of the ruling class prevent candidates supported by various people’s organizations or groups from having a level playing field and the ordinary voter from having any say in the political and electoral process.

The only way that such anti-democratic practices can be rooted out is to completely transform the political process from a party-dominated one to a people-dominated process. This means that people organized in villages, housing colonies, working places and educational institutions should have the right and authority to select and elect the candidates. These people’s samitis should be the centres of political power. Political parties should not be allowed by the people to subvert this power. In fact, the role of political parties should be to make the ordinary voters aware of their political rights and prepare them to have a decisive say in the day to day running of the country’s affairs and demand accountability from their elected representatives. The right to recall should be a fundamental right of every voter. People should be able to initiate proposals for new laws, revise existing ones and monitor their implementation. They should be able make these rights justiciable. They should be able debar political parties that spew venom into the democratic process. To prevent the use of money power in elections, the electoral process should be funded by the government and any other underhanded expenditure to promote candidates should be dealt with as a serious violation. People should demand that elected constituency level election committees armed with statutory powers should be set up to make sure that these people-centred processes are not violated before, during and after the elections.

The 15th Lok Sabha elections have generated a lot of debate on what is wrong with the present political process and what is the cure. This is the time to join the debate and define the contours of a people-centred political process.

by S. Raghavan

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