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Mainstream, VOL 60 No 49 November 26, 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Nov 26, 2022

Saturday 26 November 2022

Letter to the Readers, November 26, 2022

For decades, India has been showcased in the world as a stable electoral democracy. Yes, institutionally giant scale elections have continued to be held both at the federal level for a national Parliament and for state level assemblies, but the checks and balances have been eroding. Millions of voters participate in these lections but there has been growing concerns over the past decade(s) over corrupt practices and violations of the codes of conduct of political parties during the electoral process and the inability of the election commission to bring to book the violators. In the recent years, there are many questions over the appointments by the Prime Minister of Election commissioners who head the constitutionally independent Election Commission. There have also been instances of misuse of state machinery to intimidate opposition candidates; and many instances of blatantly unethical conduct – where even when the current ruling party the BJP loses an election it still tilts the scale by literally buying-off the elected legislators who then switch sides. There have always been many unanswered questions over the murky sources of funding of elections campaigns of the political parties. But now, since 2017 a non-transparent system of ‘electoral bonds’ for campaign finance has been put in place on which practically no public records are available. In the past years, international assessments by external entities that maintain a Democracy Index (the Economic Intelligence Unit in London), or the annual reports by US based Human rights body Freedom House, or the V-Dem institute in Sweden have lowered the overall rankings of India as vibrant electoral democracy on a comparative international scale. All these assessments have been scorned at by the ruling party and the Government of India as biased and non-credible. The Supreme Court of India has recently expressed concern over the manner of appointments of the Election Commissioners and the fact that they are not appointed for the stable full six year term that they are supposed to serve. We hope the top court will go further and break its silence over the very serious issue of the non-transparency of ‘Electoral bonds scheme’ that has allowed the influential ruling party in India to raise election funds on a disproportionate scale without any disclosures on the transactions or the funders. Big Money can always skew the integrity of political parties and elections anywhere. It is very important the Supreme Court addresses this tricky issue of issue of funding of political parties and elections by calling for limitations on election finance, spending & its mandatory public disclosure.

November 26, 2022 —HK

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