S.Y. Quraishi, the former chief of India’s Election Commission, spoke with RT about issues surrounding a new voting proposal
The idea of changing the way people vote in India, the world’s largest democracy, by synchronizing elections across states has its share of benefits, but also comes with its fair share of “pitfalls and problems,” former Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has said in an interview with RT.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has proposed the ‘One Nation, One Election’ system, which would involve general and state elections being conducted simultaneously.
However, the plan has caused outcry among some in the large and culturally, linguistically, and religiously diverse country, which contains 543 parliamentary constituencies across 28 states and eight union territories.
Under the synchronized election proposal, “voters of all three tiers of democracy are the same, polling stations are the same, the people who manage [the election] are the same, and the security apparatus is the same,” Quraishi explained.
While this has certain benefits, including reducing expenditure, the former chief election commissioner noted that “constitutional and legal changes” that are required to tweak the system remain the “main issue.” “India is, after all, a federal country. Different regions also have their own politics,” he pointed out.
🇮🇳 Broke Ground with Universal Franchise on Day One of Independence
RT speaks to former Chief Election Commissioner, S. Y. Quraishi (@DrSYQuraishi), who said India was well ahead of Western nations in giving women the right to vote.ADVERTISEMENT
— RT_India (@RT_India_news) November 10, 2023
“Ask the people,” Quraishi added, underlining the need for public consensus before such a move is implemented. “Most people in India have no power, except the power to vote. Repeated elections means the politicians keep coming back to those poor people with folded hands. It creates accountability among the politicians. If the election is [held] once in [every] five years, these people [politicians] will disappear,” he said.
The former chief election commissioner said the ‘One Nation, One Election’ concept could still be around the corner, as he believes “the government seems determined to enforce it.”
The Modi-led government is attempting to implement the policy ahead of next year’s general elections that will determine the next prime minister. The federal government on September 1 formed a high-level committee chaired by former President Ram Nath Kovind “to examine the issue relating to [the] holding of simultaneous elections in the country.” The committee will also examine and recommend whether amendments to the constitution would require ratification by the states.
During the group’s second meeting held last month, the Law Commission of India presented its suggestions and viewpoints on the issue. According to Quraishi, several articles of the constitution would have to be amended. “And there will have to be some changes in the representation of the people act,” he added.
Indian opposition parties have largely opposed the move. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of Congress, the principal opposition party, has described the idea as an “attack” on the Indian Union. Fellow Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury refused to be part of the ‘One Nation, One Election’ committee.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India has said it will act “according to legal provisions” if the policy is implemented.
When asked about the use of technology for making elections more efficient and transparent, Quraishi said technology already plays a very important role in India’s elections. At the same time, he pointed out that India’s Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) “utilizes elementary 17th-century technology akin to that of a calculator.”
This is done “deliberately,” he noted, as connecting the machines to wi-fi could cause “manipulation.” When asked if AI could play a role in the election process, Quraishi said it was a double-edged sword – it could be dangerous and used by people “aiming to undermine free and fair elections.” He admitted, however, that AI could also be used to identify “duplicate, bogus voters and voters who have died and should have been removed.”
November 10, 2023 at 04:28PM