How to conduct free and fair polls – Rao’s book to tell all

By Richa Sharma, IANS,

New Delhi : Concerned over the growing criminalisation of politics and the role of money in elections, K.J. Rao, who as a vigilant election commission observer made a mark in the Bihar elections of 2005, is writing a book on how to conduct clean elections.

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The book, slated for release before the next Lok Sabha elections, is based on Rao’s experiences during the Bihar elections that was largely violence-free and rid of booth capturing that had characterised earlier elections.

“The book will primarily focus on steps needed to ensure that criminal elements are weeded out from the electoral process,” Rao told IANS.

“The book will contain details about how free and fair polls were conducted in Bihar. It will throw light on poll reforms and how elections can be conducted in a well organised manner besides vetting criminal elements,” he said.

The 66-year-old Rao, who is giving finishing touches to the book before the general elections scheduled for 2009, will also answer an important question that has puzzled many – why did he turn down the offer for an extension after the Bihar poll?

“Finally the dust will settle on my surprise decision to end the decade-long association with the Election Commission in 2006,” said Rao, who is currently a member of the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee overlooking the sealing of illegal shops in residential areas of the national capital.

In addition to his present job, Rao has also set up an NGO called Foundation for Advanced Management of Elections (FAME) with former chief election commissioner J.M Lyngdoh.

On the request of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, FAME has agreed to help conduct organisational elections of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) in Punjab this month.

“Rahul got in touch with Lyngdoh four months ago to streamline the organisational polls in the IYC and the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the two organisations under his charge. But I was in turn asked to help,” Rao said.

According to Rao, Rahul Gandhi has accepted the suggestion that any candidate chargesheeted for a crime punishable with imprisonment for two years or more under the law should be barred from contesting the organisational elections.

Other political parties too have approached FAME to help in organisational elections but Rao refuses to say more. For now, his energies are being spent on his tell-all book.