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Electoral corruption is the mother of all corruptions: SY Qureshi, former CEC

By Priti Prakash | PUBLISHED: 09, Apr 2024, 23:44 pm IST | UPDATED: 07, May 2024, 21:18 pm IST

Electoral corruption is the mother of all corruptions: SY Qureshi, former CEC

New Delhi: As general elections 2024 nears, there are many burning issues that may change the direction of not just the voters choice but India's future as well. On stake is the government's credidibility, popularity, and the question of how many seats will it be able to garner amidst this slugfest of democarcy despite claiming a better repeat of 2019. The Election Commission being the most important constitutional body in these times will be the sinosure of all eyes.

In a free wheeling talk with Former Chief Election Commissioner SY Qureshi we get a sense of the times and issues that defines the upcoming elections.     

Q 1. The verdict given by Supreme Court on Electoral Bonds seems to have hit the government hard in this election season and may have consequences. What's your take on Electoral Bonds decision given by SC.

A. I have been calling Supreme Court the Guardian Angel of democracy. But since last few yrs I am hesitant in saying this. They didn’t feel the importance of Electoral Bonds earlier. 5 CJI’s have come & gone. They are also accountable. They are not gods. They have to answer to the nation. For 7 yrs such an important thing was ignored. Electoral corruption is the mother of all corruptions in the country. Because when you spend crores you have to collect crores. 5 Chief Justices have to explain why Electoral Bond issue was not urgent.

Q 2. Election campaigns now happen on social media. Does the Election Commission have enough mechanisms to monitor hate speeches.

A. Hate speeches & rumours have now increased 100 times. For hate speeches its time we reconsider turning into single phase election. When EC gave instructions against it people objected over EC trying to regulate social media. Social Media also is media & so whatever applies to media should apply to Social Media. Also what comes under consideration is to reveal how much was spent on Social Media as on newspapers & TV ads. As election campaign content is monitored so too this should be monitored. EC talked to FB and asked them to participate in voter education only. So EC has to act proactively to check it.

The reason for defending 7 phase election was loss of lives. There used to be 100 murders on poll day in UP, Bihar, West Bengal. So paramilitary forces were required.  Polls can be conducted in one day with 33 companies in 2 & a half months time. Its now time to see into it, increase paramilitry forces to 10-20 000, which will give employment too. This will save from the disaster being caused by Social Media.

Q 3. Is Election Commission able to monitor Social Media

A. In every district a District Media Coordination Monitoring Committee is made by EC whose mandate is to keep an eye on paid news, hate speeches. A lakh video cameras are installed to cover elections on hate speeches, crimes etc.

Q 4. Does Election Commission have any teeth anymore.

A. Election Commission can transfer the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, DM, SP, DGP by the powers given to it. If anyone shows evidence of any partisanship of any authority, he can be taken action upon. This sends a message that neutrality is non-negotiable.

Q 5. There is huge election expenditure by candidates. How do you see that!

A. Presently there is a ceiling on individual expenditure of 59 lakhs for MP, 45 lakhs for MLA.  Party can spend 5-15 crores on you. Together this amount is more than enough. It is in the hands of the governmentt to put ceiling on the party. But that requires political will. This can be suggested as Electoral Reforms.  

Q 6. Ever since AI has come creating fake audio & video can impact elections. What measures can Election Commission take, has any thought gone into it.

A. Deep fake is not only an electoral issue its a national issue and can play mischief, we can have security issues, country can be on fire, so the country should think of a solution. There is no full proof answer to it but national debate going on.

Q 7. Do you think that the Government is controlling Election Commission & other constitutional institutions!
A. In our time government could not lay hands on Election Commission. Could I have shown this spine today. Not sure.

Q 8. What is your take on One Nation One Election.

A. A national debate is going on on it. Earlier PMs didn’t thrust it upon the country. But now that is in the offing. The Commission has been given the mandate that ONOE has to be done, work out how it can be done. Parliamentary committee could not find any solution, neither Niti Ayog or Law Commission. Its pros & cons have to be understood. Taking the country to Presidential form of govt after making our constitution with examples from all over the world is not practical & may not work.

Parliament said elections in 5 yrs is not possible because a constitutional amendment will be required for it, some Vidhan sabha terms will have to be curtailed, some will have to be extended. Parliamentary committee proposed 2 elections in 5 yrs with further dilution. Then what moral authority is left in the proposal. So no point. People feel important, they feel good with staggered elections.

Q 9. There have been complains often that all legislative work comes to a stop after MCC. How true is that.

A. Its a very wrong allegation that the work halts. The only thing not allowed during MCC is no new scheme can be announced. And in case of a national calamity that too is allowed. Work on older schemes can go on. What is of concern is after remaining 4 yrs 11 months in the power you think of launching new schemes instead of working on old schemes.
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