Right from the first General Elections, the need for electoral reforms has been a subject of intense debate and discussion. Seminars, Workshops and Conferences have from time to time made many recommendations. The reports of the Election Commission of India, after every General Election, have been making proposals for electoral reforms.
A committee with representatives of all leading political parties under the Chairmanship of Dinesh Goswami, a leading member at Parliament, made a thorough study of electoral problems and proposed a number of recommendations. The report of the Committee was unanimously adopted by Parliament.
The Lok Sabha has also unanimously passed a resolution on electoral reforms. Successive governments at the Centre have been making promises about electoral reforms. Yet the matter is still hanging fire. No serious steps have been taken by any government all these years.
Free and fair elections have become largely a myth than a reality. From booth capturing, snatching of ballot papers and stuffing them in ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, in fact, every form of electoral malpractice has been on the increase in election after election.
Muscle power and money power have been very much on the increase. It is in this context that the cry for electoral reforms has become persistent and yet nothing tangible has happened so far. Unless electoral reforms are brought about and strictly enforced, democratic elections will become an ornamental euphemism, than a reality worth cherishing.
This chapter may be concluded with a brief mention of the commendable manner in which the elections were conducted by the Election Commission. Conduct of an election involving some 600 million voters is unprecedented in history.
When we also consider that this gigantic exercise was to be conducted among a voting population which is predominantly illiterate, we get the true magnitude of the achievement. The Commission was able to handle it not only efficiently but in record time.
If in 1977 the polling was concluded in four days, in 1980 it was concluded in two days. Most of the results were declared within twenty-four hours after the conclusion of the polling. Experience has made it possible to introduce a measure of sophistication in the conduct of elections in spite of the country’s large size and huge population, differing climatic condition and inadequate facilities for transport and communications.
The Election Commission deserves a tribute for the efficient manner in which all the arrangements connected with the elections were handled by it. And the people of India have also shown how they could conduct themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner in a nationwide popular exercise like this which forms one of the foundations of a democratic system of government.