Date: May 07, 2016

In the early decades after Independence, for the Election Commission of India (ECI), tasked with the job of conducting periodic polls to legislative bodies across the country, was by itself a huge project.

Having achieved a high level of competence and penetration to substantial level, the EC started looking into aspects of making those elections as free and fair as possible, thus creating a level-playing field to make the democratic experience more relevant to every citizen in the country.

'Electoral integrity' has achieved a great importance and relevance in this context. To a very great extent, much of the original scope and reach of the ECI's constitutional authority in the matter has been expanded and enforced.

More needs to be done, particularly in the context of sanitising the electoral rolls, so as to check against any unfair advantage to an incumbent government, either in a state(s) or at the Centre, during election-time.

More needs to be done, to make our elections, fool-proof.

Yet, questions also remain if the 'over-zealous' approach of the ECI in recent decades may have created unacknowledged problems of their own.

By denying adequate propaganda time, facilities and the like, the ECI may have also made it impossible for individual candidates to promote their identity among his voters, whether nominated by a political party or contesting as an Independent.

Party identities and their symbols and leadership affinity thus may have already scored over the greater legitimacy of our elections, in a way.

This also may have contributed to the high incidence of money-power, starting with 'cash-for-votes', in the context of some states, parties and candidates, as the case may be.

This could also ultimately lead to two-party system and the like, with no space for smaller parties and individuals to contest for elected offices.

Mr M G Devasahayam, a retired Army officer, who became a civil servant, had quit the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), during the Emergency era. He has since been promoting the cause of democracy, and lately, the cause of electoral integrity in particular. He is the founder-convenor of the Forum for Electoral Integrity.

Venue Address

Conference Hall, ORF Chennai