The imperatives of India's socialist democratic republic should be integral to every step of an election process.
For instance, under Article 47 of the Constitution, alcoholism is a disqualification for candidature in elections at every level from the panchayat onwards. Investigation into any complaints of alcoholism on the part of a candidate made by anyone in the voters' list may be undertaken by the Election Commission. Such a complaint could be made before the Returning Officer concerned.
The payment of dowry, directly or vicariously, could be another basis for disqualification. Any candidate who is in any manner guilty of such a practice will be held ineligible to contest.
The need for stern enforcement of all the relevant conditions is writ into election law. These are binding on the Election Commission, and other authorities including the police. Violations should be made cognisable offences.
The broad principle that makes Indian democracy a reality is similar to what existed in the case of the erstwhile Soviet Union in Article 135: “The elections of deputies shall be universal: all citizens of the USSR who have reached the age of 18, irrespective of race and nationality, religion, educational qualifications, residence, social origin, property status or past activity, shall have the right to take part in the elections of deputies and to be elected, with the exception of insane persons and persons condemned by court with deprivation of electoral rights.”
Every candidate to every House is bound by the Constitution. So all parties and candidates have to include in their manifesto a commitment that they would strive to create and strengthen a socialist society, a secular creed with freedom for all religions, and a truly democratic party. If these values are not made integral to the candidate's social philosophy, the party or candidate shall not be allowed by the Election Commission to contest elections.
The Constitution governs elections and its provisions are paramount. Two supreme values need special mention. The first is compassion. The other is negative, but equally paramount: the abolition of corruption. If proved corrupt, however high your office and whatever your alibi or excuse, you forfeit your office.
These are most important items in every candidate's manifesto, without which his or her candidature will not be valid. A majestic value-based manifesto is excellent but not enough. It must be an effective undertaking, should be functional and transform society into a nobler one. Every candidate must remember that he or she is not a member of his little constituency but a plenary surrogate of the culturally glorious geography called Bharat. To see that the pledges made in manifestos are effectively implemented, there should be election invigilators who have the powers to stop violations, and even to disqualify a candidate. No High Court has jurisdiction at that stage, as the era of Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan demonstrated.
Money power, bribery, oblique tactics and so on should be arrested. The invigilators must be above party considerations, persons of integrity. And they should have policing powers. A clean election is the finest foundation of a great democratic republic.
There should also be a right of recall of elected representatives. For this, Parliament must amend the Representation of the People Act. Parliament could provide for a right of recall on specific conditions where the legislator has violated any of the set conditions, provided that the Election Commission shall enquire, on a complaint being duly made, about any legislator. The process should ensure natural justice and fiat justicia.
In the erstwhile Soviet Union there was the following provision effectively enforced under Article 142: “Every deputy shall be obliged to report to the electors on his work and on the work of the soviet of working people's deputies and may at any time be recalled by decision of a majority of the lectors in the manner prescribed by law.”
Every Indian who is 18 years and above is entitled to vote. The ballot is more than a right on paper. There should be a polling station even in prisons and hospitals which lodge about 500 persons. Their right to vote can be exercised only in a polling station with a polling officer and staff. Or else, the inmates lose their right of franchise. There is no reason to deprive a person of his right to vote: that will only diminish democracy.
Violence or pressure should never be used in any election process, and such actions must be made offences. The little man must be free to cast his vote on the little piece of paper or make a mark, according to his conscience. A party's candidates must win with the small man's independent franchise. That is a free election cast in a national spirit. Or else democracy becomes a travesty. That little man's freedom to freely cast his franchise was put in Winston Churchill's words: “The little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper — no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of the point.”
The basic structure of our polity is the free vote of the lowliest voter. The rich man shall not rule the constituency. These are the constitutional imperatives of Elections 2011.
The franchise every citizen enjoys is pregnant with the power to actualise a grand, magnificent change. Every election where votes are cast, there is this unwritten power implied in the ballot. The campaign for elections must be geared to make every citizen aware over his power, which cannot be bartered away by lucre lavishly spent during polling time. Thus the election process which is in the offing is a creative national operation where a New Brave Bharat will be the vision and the mission of the operation called elections.
Socialist India of the days the Constitution was enacted was the salvation of the have-not humanity of India. Social and economic justice is a pledge given in the Preamble, and nothing shall be done by the Executive, the Legislature and Judiciary to deter, delay or undo this sublime objective. Every high official in these three instrumentalities must function to accelerate and not decelerate. This solemn process has continued as India made its transition during the last 60 years from imperialist British India to Swaraj socialist secular India.
We have much to regret, what with omnipresent corruption, absent compassion, communalist negation of integrity, fraternity and unity, and surrender of resources to foreign domination, especially the Yankee syndrome. The new struggle is to fight back this tendency, all in the name of development that contradicts the tryst with destiny declared by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947.