As crucial assembly elections in India wrap up, the Kautilya School of Public Policy hosted the first episode in its series Let’s Talk Policy, discussing how India can improve its electoral process. The panel touched upon some of the key topics ranging from transparency during elections, electoral bonds to the one nation one election theory.
Moderated by Ms. Nidhi Razdan, visiting faculty, Kautilya School of Public Policy & Former Executive Editor, NDTV 24×7; the panelists included eminent personalities such as Dr. SY Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner; Priyanka Chaturvedi, Member of Parliament Rajya Sabha; Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, BJP member and Former Chairperson, National Commission for Women and Mr. Jagdeep Chokkar, Founder, Association of Democratic Reform ‘ADR’.
The panelists discussed campaign financing and if names of those who donated to contesting political parties ought to be known. The experts also touched upon the much talked about issue, transparency in elections and the need for practical solutions. Other than the voter having the right to know who finances the contesting party during electoral campaigns, the idea of whether a one nation one election policy will further the country’s democratic process was raised.
Mr. Jagdeep Chokkar, Founder, Association of Democratic Reform ‘ADR’, on the overall idea of a clean election stated, “I have been working for 20 years on this issue and I can tell you that there are a number of things that lie in the heart of electoral reforms. Political parties also need finances to govern themselves. Transparency in political financing and internal democracy is another aspect as well. More importantly, the Election Commission has spoken about it in the past too.”
Vying for solutions that would serve a long-term purpose, Priyanka Chaturvedi, MP, Rajya Sabha explained, “An electoral bond is one thing where you have taken away transparency, where you do not know who is putting in money and how much money is invested by political parties. Especially corporates who are putting in money and extract some benefit. Second, if there are compliances in place, please ensure that they are adhered to. Every political party should be held accountable, they are also expected to submit the books of accounts and follow the norms.”
Standing for naming those who donate money, Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, member of BJP, stressed that she was speaking in a personal capacity and added, “I do agree that electoral funding needs a huge amount more transparency than what we have now. Ideally, there should be more transparency regardless of what form of funding is being followed or allowed constitutionally or legally in this country. I am not saying political parties should be excused for corruption that takes place, but every part of the system needs to be cleaned up.”
On the sincerity of a One Nation tag, Dr. SY Quraishi, Former Chief Election Commissioner, quipped that “Doable certainly, but noy desirable. If you ask the poor, they are happy with repeated elections as they get to see their leader. However, because of the repeated and prolonged mode of conduct, everything comes to standstill. The question is if the prolonged model disrupts normal activity, why are the elections being held for 3-4 months now.”
With an aim to bring hard facts to the public, the ‘Let’s Talk Policy’ series by the Kautilya School of Public Policy is an academic initiative where a diverse set of experts ignite the minds of youth to study all parts of the policy spectrum and challenge injustices through their rightful questions.