One of the recent changes in the political scene is lowering the age of the vote to 18 years that means the number of votes has now increased. But along with it the problem of managing such a large number of voters has also increased. So to tackle this problem and other related defects of the existing election system, there is indeed an urgent need of reform in our electoral system.
In a country like India, people of different religions, castes, languages traditions etc. are living together. So Govt. has to look to interests of all such sections. But at the time of elections it is often observed that the different constituencies are reorganized in order to suit the interests of the party in power. There has been a long drawn public debate on various aspects of electoral reforms. The election commission and the leaders of political parties have made certain valuable suggestions in this regard.
In 1988 two Bills were passed by the Parliament—one, a Constitutional Amendment Bill and the other, an Amendment to the Peoples Representation Act. These enactments introduced important and exhaustive changes in the election system which were concerned with elections, electorate, voters, voting system, candidates and election campaign. The most important change was lowering the age of voting from 21 to 18 years. It was considered necessary to involve the younger generation in the political process of the country.
Recently it has been pointed out that three proposals were receiving the attention of the people. These are firstly whether proportional representation should be introduced or not. Secondly, how election expenses could be controlled and lastly whether it is right that the voting age has been reduced to 18 years.
At this time the system of election is a single member constituency. In other words, any particular candidate, who is able to get votes more than what the other gets is elected. It has been pointed out that the elected candidate may secure even 30% votes whereas the defeated candidate taken together might have polled 70% votes. It implies that the elected candidate represents only 30% of the voters. This means that Parliament itself is not truly representative. So, the cabinet committee examined proportional representation as a substitute for the existing system. Also the report of the Hansard Society Commission on Electoral Reforms said that the proportional representation will be the most suitable form of electoral system in India. Takunde Committee has suggested a little variation of proportional representation. According to it only a candidate who polls more than 50% of the valid votes in the constituency should be declared elected and this proposal is more simple and relevant to Indian conditions.
It has been observed that the State Administration helps the ruling party in the elections. The ruling party uses the state machinery and resources to its own advantage. Such a state of affairs makes election a fight between two unequals, which should not happen. Therefore ways and means to prevent it should be evolved.
Another field where the reform is needed is on election expenses. According to Tarkunde Committee limit of expenses on election should be doubled. The elections have shown that the bulk of election expenses are incurred by the political parties with the result that the election expenses are going far beyond the limit and the candidates who are not sponsored by political parties are at much disadvantage. Therefore political parties should be asked to account for their expenses.
Another reform which has been introduced is of lowering the age limit to 18 years. It means participation of a very large number of people in elections. So it becomes unmanageable and involves a huge expenditure. Moreover it involves more-and-more students to enter into politics, which is not right.
There is also a suggestion that counting of votes must start at the polling stations immediately after the polling is over. It should be done in the presence of candidates or their representatives to prevent any bungling and tampering of ballot boxes. Also cases of fictitious votes or impersonation are often reported. Only few cases could be detected and rest remain undetected. So identity cards have been issued to all voters.
So, seeing all the merits and demerits on present election system suitable electoral reforms could be acted upon to make elections really fair and meaningful.