Team Anna’s demand for incorporating Right to Reject a candidate in Parliament and assembly elections is an “interesting possibility”, feels Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi.
He, however, finds that their plea for Right to Recall can lead to political instability.
He also says that nothing should be done to weaken institutions of democracy and Parliamentary supremacy should not be questioned.
Mr. Quraishi said the Commission has a “mixed” feeling on the plea for Right to Reject.
“If it leads to too many elections, we have our reservations. Anna group has met us. They told us that Anna’s point of view is that money power is a major issue and that is disturbing everybody including EC,” he told PTI in an interview.
Besides, if the Commission is not able to debar criminals in the absence of a law to that effect, at least people can reject such a candidate who has spent crores of rupees. Their disqualification from contesting will be a deterrent.
Mr. Quraishi said, “Now there is an interesting possibility there. The issue needs to be examined.”
He, however, added that there will be many legal issues subsequently which could be gone into.
In this connection he said the Commission has suggested inclusion of a button in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) that provides for the choice of “none of the above” candidates for electors, which option was earlier available under the ballot paper system.
On the issue of Right to Recall, Mr. Quraishi said, “In a way, we already have the Right to Recall. Every five years you can recall the candidates. People are smart. They throw out the government they don’t like and reject the representatives who did not live up to their expectations. They do that regularly.
“Now to start the practice of recalling before the term will destabilise the country,” he said.
He was replying to a question on Team Anna’s campaign for including a provision for the Right to Recall representatives by people who are disenchanted with their MPs and MLAs.
“You can’t keep the sword of uncertainty hanging over every MP or MLA. They will not be able to work. They will indulge in populism and their political rivals will never let them be in peace right from the day of their election,” Mr. Quraishi said.
He gave an example of a loser in an election who instead of going for an election petition will go for a recall. He also said in a constituency where four lakh people have voted for the winning candidate, how many would be needed to dislodge the winner — 5,000, 10,000 or 50,000 ? It should not be less than the number who voted for him.
“And it is not only right of the representative to last his full term. It is also the right of those four lakh voters who chose him. Second, whatever is the number 10,000, 15,000 one lakh, who will verify the signatures. It is impossible,” he said.
“Further how shall it be ensured that those who signed have voluntarily done so and not under coercion or illegal inducement?” he added.
The Chief Election Commissioner also ruled out referendum as a possibility for recall of legislators.
On the problem of signatures, the CEC cited the example of parties coming up with claims during times of split, both parties claim they are the real party.
“And they both give us signatures and both claim that the other party’s signatures are bogus. Even determining the genuineness of 200 to 300 signatures is complex. To be able to do that with 50,000 signatures is impossible.”
Mr. Quraishi said then after all that, if a referendum is to be held, it has to be for the entire constituency. And in a referendum, if people say you recall then you will have to do a re-election. The referendum is also practically an election.
Thus, there will be two elections: one for referendum, second for bye-election. As it is people, are complaining of election fatigue.
He said the job of conducting election is not just the three Commissioners or half a dozen officers. It is millions of teachers and government employees, who even go to court against being drafted for election duty because it disturbs their normal work, school programme and teaching.
On Team Anna’s campaign, Quraishi said Jantar Mantar (street campaign) can never be in competition with Parliament.
“To express your opinion is fine. Agitation is fine. But my strong feeling is that nobody should do anything to weaken the institutions of democracy. The need of the hour is to strengthen them instead. Parliamentary democracy should not be undermined — in the name of democracy!.”
The CEC said that under the Constitution, Parliament is the law—making body and law cannot be made on the streets. It has to be made in Parliament.
Having said that, he added, political leaders should also realise that electoral reforms, which have been pending for two decades, need to be taken up without further delay.
“Otherwise, people’s disillusionment with politicians and their corruption is only bound to increase. The best remedy to take care of corruption is to cleanse the political system through electoral reforms like the Commission has proposed over the years.”