All-party meet today on open voting for RS polls

NEW DELHI OCT. 28. The Government has convened an all-party meeting at Parliament House here tomorrow to discuss the rules for implementing an open voting system for the Rajya Sabha elections as opposed to the secret ballot method being used now.

A bill to enable implementation of the open voting system was passed by Parliament during the monsoon session.

Besides this, other issues related to electoral reforms — doubling of the amount of security deposit by candidates, increasing the sum of money candidates may legitimately spend on elections and securing the tenure of all Election Commissioners — will be discussed.

Not all political parties were happy with the move to do away with the secrecy of the ballot for the Rajya Sabha elections. However, the Government pushed the measure through saying it would help curb the influence of money power and prevent "cross-voting", that is, prevent party members from defying their party's wishes.

Those opposed to the move have argued that the open voting system will hit at the very root of parliamentary democracy based on "fearless voting" through the secret ballot.

As one Opposition party leader said: "It will also tighten the grip of party bossism" as it will allow parties to virtually issue a whip for Rajya Sabha voting leading to a result foretold.

The Communist Party of India general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, pointed out that the doubling of the security amount for candidates would be no deterrent for non-serious candidates — the amount, he said, was to be raised from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 20,000 — but "it would certainly deprive poorer candidates and make it more difficult for those legitimate parties that are not flush with funds from the corporate sector."

He also criticised the proposal to double the money candidates are allowed to spend on elections. "It is a move to legitimise money power," he added.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has defended the bill to end secrecy of the ballot for the Rajya Sabha elections and the increase in the amount of money a candidate is allowed to spend. The party general secretary, M.A. Naqvi, who along with S.S. Ahluwalia, MP, will attend tomorrow's meeting said that "the party favoured an open ballot system for the Rajya Sabha elections as it would prevent muscle and money power being used." It was also of the view that an increase in the amount of money a candidate was allowed to spend would bring the legal position closer to the reality.

The Union Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, who had assured MPs when the bill for open voting for the Rajya Sabha was considered that before finalising the rules he would discuss the matter with all political parties, has convened the meeting.

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