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Curb money, muscle power in polls: Sonia

EC is 60: (From left) President Pratibha Patil, Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, watching UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi lighting the inaugural lamp, during the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India, in New Delhi on Monday.

EC is 60: (From left) President Pratibha Patil, Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, watching UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi lighting the inaugural lamp, during the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India, in New Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Congress president and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday called for challenging the influence of money and muscle power [in elections] and strive for greater transparency.

Ms. Gandhi also stressed the need to build consensus on preventing individuals with criminal records from contesting elections. She was addressing the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India.

As for more representation to women in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, Ms. Gandhi said: “We have taken the first step by introducing legislation [the Women’s Reservation Bill] in the Upper House, but unfortunately we are still some distance away from its becoming a reality.”

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said the country could feel “justifiably proud” of the Commission as it had held 15 Lok Sabha elections and 326 elections to the Assemblies. This was no mean achievement.

Law and Justice Minister M. Veerappa Moily assured the Election Commission of the government’s full support for its electoral reforms proposal. The consultation process would begin in June.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the fact that even a powerful person in politics was afraid of the Election Commission was a tribute to its fairness and credibility.

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla commended political parties for displaying immense maturity in strengthening democracy. Election Commissioners S.Y. Quraishi and V.S. Sampath participated.

Informed sources said AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa, who visited New Delhi after more than two years, and Ms. Sonia Gandhi met when they were waiting in the VIP lounge for the arrival of the President. They exchanged pleasantries and enquired about each other’s well being.

Replying to a journalist’s question on the Gujarat government’s legislation making voting in local bodies elections mandatory, Mr. Chawla said it was “almost impossible to enforce” mandatory voting nationwide. But he refused to comment on the Gujarat law, saying the State Election Commissioner was an independent constitutional authority, and he must respect that position.

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