Quraishi opposes state funding of elections


Lucknow: Opposing state funding of poll campaigning of parties and individuals in the country, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S.Y. Quraishi Sunday sought a complete ban on criminals joining the fray and insisted on clamping down on opinion polls.

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He was speaking at a seminar on electoral reforms at the Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University here. The seminar was inaugurated by Uttar Pradesh Chief minister Mayawati and chaired by union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily.

Terming state funding of parties and individuals for elections as “a very dangerous proposal”, the CEC sought to point out that “far from curbing use of black money, state funding of elections would provide an even more convenient means for flow of black money”.

According to him, “under the circumstances, anyone receiving a certain prescribed amount of money from the state exchequer to contest an election would still remain free to pump in additional money without having to account for it as he would show the state funding alone as the actual expenditure”.

Quraishi was of the view that no mechanism could prevent the entry of criminals in the electoral fray as effectively as the political parties themselves.

“It appears that political parties were literally running a race of fielding criminals. Despite all the discussions and debates on the issue of criminalisation of politics, there is a steady rise in the number of criminals in electoral politics,” he lamented.

“I am, therefore, strongly of the view that we need to evolve some effective regulation to prevent criminals from contesting,” he said.

“I would be in favour of disallowing anyone against whom charges have been framed by the prosecuting authority. Also those undertrials who are facing charges which entail a punishment of five or more years of imprisonment should also be barred from seeking election,” he said.

Commenting on the sluggish prosecution and conviction of accused, he said: “The delay in the judicial process allows criminals to get positions of power and even become ministers with the result that they even get entitled to official security and make blatant misuse of their position.”

Quraishi also stressed the need to clamp a blanket ban on opinion polls and publication of “paid news” around election time. “While campaigning is stopped officially 48 hours before the polling, the freedom to publish paid news and opinion polls come in handy to continue campaigning in an oblique manner,” he added.

Moily laid stress on the need to inculcate the spirit and habit of voting among common voters. “Unfortunately a large chunk of the literate population was still not in the habit of exercising their right to vote, which was why we have only a large turnout of illiterate voters,” he said.

Inaugurating the seminar, Mayawati favoured state funding of elections. She declared her Bahujan Samaj Party would not give tickets to any criminal.

She did not agree with the CEC’s proposal to bar from contesting polls those people who have been charge sheeted by a prosecuting authority or those involved in cognizable offences (carrying imprisonment of five or more years).