Former chief election commissioner TS Krishnamurthy has reignited the debate on the first-past-the-post system by proposing a minimum of 33% votes for a candidate to be declared elected.
According to the first-past-the-post system, the winner of the vote in each constituency takes the seat. Overall, the national vote share is irrelevant in deciding who wins a general election -- it is all down to the number of seats each party wins.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Krishnamurthy pointed to the flaws of the system and said it allows a person to win even with 20% of the votes polled and with a margin of one vote.
“The present first-past-the-post system should be replaced by providing that the winning candidate should have got minimum one-third of the votes polled to be declared as elected,” he said.
He said the first-past-the-post system encourages voting on the basis of “narrow considerations” of language, creed and caste.
“This has resulted in a proliferation of political parties based on caste, language and creed. If the proposed change is brought about, the elected representative can present more balanced views in the legislature and represent a larger section of the constituency instead of representing narrow considerations,” Krishnamurthy said.
The demand for revisiting the first-past-the-post system was raised in 2014 after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Lok Sabha election with just 31 % votes. However, the same system ensured the victory of the grand alliance in the 2015 Bihar assembly election in spite of the BJP getting more percentage of votes.
The former CEC blamed the enforcement of laws, calling it the “weakest link in our governance”, for the rampant flouting of the Election Commission of India’s norms and code of conduct by political parties. In the past one week, two chief ministers have been accused of violating the code of conduct by the poll panel.
A First Information Report was registered against Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi for violating sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 by holding a press conference within 48 hours of polling.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was issued a notice for violating the rule by announcing the carving out of a new district.
On electoral reforms and decriminalising the process — an issue raised periodically by the Supreme Court — he said the lack of political will is to blame for the delay in accepting recommendations made over the years to clean the process.
Several recommendations, such as making paid news an offence under the Representation of People’s Act, punishable by a jail term of up to two years, have been pending for years with the law ministry.
To give the EC more power, Krishnamurthy also suggested a separate law regulating political parties.
“At present, many regulations for formation and functioning of the political parties have no legislative backup. Many provisions of the model code of conduct can be incorporated in such law where the Election Commission should be empowered to impose monetary penalties and to disqualify the political parties, candidates or voters in respect of certain violations during the election time,” he said.
He also suggested the setting of a national election fund to check the rampant use of money during elections. The proposed change will allow political parties to accept donations only from their members within specified limits. Donors would get 100% tax exemption.
“Apart from curbing competitive donations from the business community to pacify ruling and opposition parties existing now, the proposed changes will enable even poor candidates to contest elections successfully thereby bringing level playing field among the contesting candidates,” he said.