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Poll panel to brainstorm on key issues

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Election expenditure, participation of women to figure at meet with seven registered national parties and 51 State parties

In the times of social media and phased elections, how can campaign silence be maintained during the last 48 hours before the elections?

The Election Commission will be debating this and seven other issues, including limiting of expenditure and increasing participation of women, at a multi-party meeting on Monday. All seven registered national political parties and 51 State political parties have been invited.

The law prohibits canvassing during the last 48 hours before the elections. This is meant to create an environment of neutrality and “silence” for the voter to exercise his franchise through reasoned reflection rather than be swayed by last-minute appeals by parties and candidates.

The agenda notes, circulated to all political parties and accessed by The Hindu, say the Commission has sought suggestions on how to “address the issue of online canvassing to promote or prejudice the electoral prospects of a party/candidate on social media during the last 48 hours.”

The Opposition parties, especially the Congress, have been consistently asking this question in view of the BJP’s extensive campaigning on the ground and on social media ahead of each election.

Adding print media

The Commission has asked the parties if the print media should also be brought within the ambit of Section 126(1)(b) (which lists mediums in which display of election matter is prohibited and includes television, cinematograph or similar apparatus) of the Representation of the People Act.

Seeking to raise a heated debate, the Commission has asked political parties on whether there should be a ceiling on party election expenditure. The present election laws only provide a limit on a candidate’s expenditure. The commission has also written to the Law Ministry exploring this question.

“It has proposed that such ceiling should be either 50% of or not more than the expenditure ceiling limit provided for the candidate multiplied by the number of candidates of the party contesting the election,” the agenda notes says. The Law Ministry is yet to respond to the proposal.

The Commission wants to know the views of political parties on bringing a ceiling for expenditure in the Legislative Council elections. In these elections, huge amounts of unaccounted-for money is often spent by the candidates.

The Commission has asked the parties to take note of alternative modes of voting for domestic migrants and absentee voters, such as postal, proxy and e-voting. The Commission has proposed five strategies, the agenda note says, to ensure that no migrant worker is left out.

These include developing portability of voting rights by linking voter ID and Aadhaar. A one-time voluntary registration system for domestic migrants, electoral support services to be provided to migrants at the source and destination areas, raising awareness of voters’ rights and a helpline for domestic migrants are the other measures suggested by the Commission.

The Election Commission has also asked “what measures can political parties undertake to encourage enhanced representation of women within the organisation structure of the political party.” It has pulled out embarrassing statistics to build the case for a greater presence of women. There are only 11.4% women in the 16th Lok Sabha, substantially lower than the global average of 22.9%, the Commission noted.

It has said that at least seven countries have laws reserving seats for women in legislature, including Nepal.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 7:25:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/poll-panel-to-brainstorm-on-key-issues/article24774155.ece

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