People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 30

July 29, 2012

Money Power Distorting

Our Electoral System: Yechury

Arun Latkar


THE large scale use of money during elections is distorting the electoral system of the country and democracy is in real danger of being hijacked by money power, felt CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP Sitaram Yechury.


He was addressing a symposium organised by social organisation, Janmanch, at a crowded Nagpur University convocation hall in the city on July 17, 2012 on the topic "Has the democracy been hijacked by money power".


Saying that our democracy has not yet been hijacked, Yechury felt that such a scenario is not very far given the way things are going. He however highlighted the example of the latest Shimla Municipal Corporation polls to show how money power can be defeated by people’s power. One of the reasons for the distortion of our electoral system through large scale use of money power lies in the growing economic inequalities in our country. He said that just 55 top businessmen today own wealth equivalent to almost one-third of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And according to Arjun Sengupta report, nearly 80 per cent of the population is still living on an income that is less than Rs 20 a day. This clearly indicates the massive divide in the country that exists today between the rich and the poor, he said.


Yechury lashed out at the corporates for providing individual favours to politicians and political parties in return for unfair benefits. According to him the business houses are now gradually making their way into the political system as well. He asserted that funding from corporates and business houses is one of the main reasons for the distortion of the electoral system as this money is then used to entice voters. Suggesting measures to check the distribution of cash and goods to voters, Yechury said that if corporates wished to play a part in strengthening the democracy, they should donate funds to the Election Commission of India, which could then provide assistance in kind to political parties for their electoral campaign. Such a mechanism of State funding in kind can prove to be immensely helpful in curtailing malpractices during elections.


Yechury underlined that it is not just money power that is distorting our democracy, but many other factors also which must be noted. Prime among them is the criminalisation of politics. The facts and figures regarding the number of under-trial candidates who have fought assembly and parliamentary elections in past is in the public domain, he said. Yet these candidates with criminal backgrounds emerge victorious and by the time they can be sentenced they complete their terms as people’s representatives. Although Yechury also believed that at times some false charges are levelled against candidates by the governments in power to tarnish their reputation.




Speaking on the issue of proportional representative system of elections, Yechury felt that such a system is far superior as compared to the current first-past-the-post system. He claimed that there has not been a single government in the past 60 years which has been able to secure 50 per cent votes in the country. He also questioned the current system of polling and said that parties form the government with hardly 25 to 30 per cent of votes, whereas the remaining majority of votes stand against that particular party.


The closest who came to this figure was Rajiv Gandhi with 42 per cent of Indian voters voting in his favour in 1984 general election. The present government, he reminded, was formed with about 25 to 30 per cent votes. Explaining the proportionate system of elections, he said that as per this system, every citizen should be given two votes and the number of seats in the Lok Sabha should be doubled. One vote would be for the political party and the second vote for the candidate. This system would empower citizens to bringing a government chosen with majority of people. Yechury claimed that Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had also foreseen the situation in which the country is in today. And the time had come for the Constitution to be fine-tuned. Yechury ended his speech with the quotation of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. “In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”


Devaji Tofa and Sister Philomina John, both from the tribal district of Gadchiroli were presented awards by Janmanch for their exemplary contribution to the society. Sitaram Yechury gave away the awards. Group Editor of Dainik Bhaskar, Prakash Dube presided over the meeting. Many eminent personalities in Nagpur were present on this occasion.