Shenanigans of Democracy- punjab assembly elections

Vrinda Sharma

Staff Reporter

CHANDIGARH: “67 per cent crorepatis, 17 per cent criminals, 50 per cent graduates and only 6 percent women,” that’s the summary of members of Punjab legislative assembly. Based on affidavits filed by over 375 candidates, at the time of contesting elections, Punjab Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms have published reports analysing data on the education, criminal cases (pending and past cases), assests and liabilities of the MLAs.

First report is the analysis of the criminal cases, assets, liabilities and education levels of the current 117 sitting MLAs and a second report with analysis of the data of the top 3 vote getting candidates in each of the 117 constituencies of Punjab in the Vidhan Sabha Election 2007 (Winner, first runner up and second runner up). Talking about the MLAs report, Jaskirat Singh, coordinator of Punjab Election Watch said, “All major parties gave tickets to candidates with pending criminal cases and 20 out of those won the election  and became MLAs with 5 being those with serious criminal cases against them with charges like attempt to murder and kidnapping. Two thirds of the MLAs (78) are crorepatis and 5 MLAs had their declared wealth to be less than 10 lacs. 28 MLAs did not have PAN number out of which 15 are crorepatis. 17 MLAs had declared that their education was 8th standard or less. Only 7 women made it to the Vidhan Sabha which is an insignificant 6per cent of the total 117.”

“This report is just a reminder to the political parties that they must ensure transparency in ticket distribution and restrict candidates with black money and criminal record,” Mr Singh added. The civil society organizations working for electoral and political reforms appealed to the political parties of Punjab to improve the state of their internal democracy and practice financial transparency so that better candidates can get tickets and get elected during the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections in Punjab.

Prof Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of ADR and former Director of IIM Ahmedabad said, “The political parties fight elections in a democratic system but they do not practice democracy within. We demand from all political parties in Punjab that they should come out of the dictatorial high command culture of ticket distribution. Tickets should be given in a more transparent and democratic manner.” He further added that the political parties do not practice financial transparency and the copies of their income statements obtained under RTI by ADR reveal that most of their donations come from undisclosed sources in cash which is a very worrying trend.

Talking about the contents of the reports Prof Chhokar said, “Seven women MLAs is a insignificant representation but a dismal 5 per cent of the tickets were given to women candidates in 2007. This very heavy bias against women in ticket distribution needs to be corrected. What is worse is that this was even lower than 2002 when it was also a paltry 8 per cent. This is one more manifestation of lack of internal democracy in political parties.”

Talking about the abuse of money power in elections, Prof. Chhokar said that the recent elections in 5 states show that the Election Commission of India has become very vigilant and efficient in catching illegal cash. He added “The election commission has come out very strongly against the use of black money in funding election campaigns and has stepped up vigilance against bribing of voters through cash and liquor inducements.”

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