FIXING THE FIXERS
THE OPEN ballot system in the Rajya Sabha elections derailed the plan of criminals-turned-MLAs to ensure the victory of their candidate. The system was implemented for the first time in the biennial Rajya Sabha elections in the State. And despite hectic efforts, it largely prevented cross-voting. The system proved the nemesis of moneybag politicians. But, the amended law needs to be tightened further. Political parties are in a fix, as there is no provision for disqualification of MLAs resorting to cross-voting openly. Parties had issued whips to MLAs to vote on party lines. Since there was no provision for punitive action, cross-voting could not be stopped altogether.india Updated: Apr 01, 2006 23:58 IST
The open ballot system in Rajya Sabha elections has curbed horse-trading to some extent, but the law needs more teeth.
THE OPEN ballot system in the Rajya Sabha elections derailed the plan of criminals-turned-MLAs to ensure the victory of their candidate.
The system was implemented for the first time in the biennial Rajya Sabha elections in the State. And despite hectic efforts, it largely prevented cross-voting. The system proved the nemesis of moneybag politicians.
But, the amended law needs to be tightened further. Political parties are in a fix, as there is no provision for disqualification of MLAs resorting to cross-voting openly. Parties had issued whips to MLAs to vote on party lines. Since there was no provision for punitive action, cross-voting could not be stopped altogether.
Unless, there is the fear of disqualification, cross-voting cannot be eliminated.
Though the law has disciplined the money-hungry MLAs, it has not done so completely.
Former Speaker Keshari Nath Tripathi said additional powers should be given to the Election Commission to disqualify MLAs going against the party line. He said the returning officer should be empowered to report directly to the Commission on the complaint of a party to quash membership of an MLA who voted against the party candidate. Tripathi said empowerment of the RO and the EC would avoid a cumbersome process of disqualification by the Speaker. He said “inner discipline” in the party would be strengthened only by outer support from the Commission. He said the purpose was to consolidate democracy and the law should be given more teeth to stop poll bargains.
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Pramod Tiwari said it was for the first time that the RS election was held under this provision and it had yielded positive results. But, the provision of whip should be included in the law, so that those going against the party faced action, he added. Tiwari said a person had the right to vote in the Rajya Sabha election by virtue of being an MLA.
Thus, he should face the consequences of disobeying the party line on the floor of the House. In the recent RS elections, 15 MLAs openly voted against the party line, but they continue to be members of the House. “It is a boon for them,” he commented. Even though ten MLAs voted for Delhi-based BJP sympathiser Sudhanshu, others who had assured him of support after a hefty deal, ditched him midway. It should certainly be a lesson for Delhi fixers, aspiring to enter Parliament from the State with money power.
With this system, the MLAs had to openly rebel against the party to vote for someone other than the official candidate. With the open ballot system, cross-voting from the BJP and the ruling Samajwadi Party could not be done in the Rajya Sabha elections on the same scale witnessed in the Vidhan Parishad polls.
The new law certainly had a positive impact.
The Mafioso-turned-MLAs had to retreat at the last moment. For the BJP, the situation was tricky. With 83 MLAs, the BJP, along with its third preference votes, had decided to allot nine surplus votes to Sudhanshu. But, in view of cross-voting by nine MLAs, the game plan was upset. A stunned BJP had to set in motion a last-minute damage control exercise to ensure the victory of its two candidates — Kalraj Mishra and Vinay Katiyar. Had Sudhanshu and Congress candidate Kardam Kumar not been eliminated after the first round of counting, the situation would have been difficult for the ruling Samajwadi Party-RLD alliance. The open ballot saved the situation.
The system has made it clear that moneybag politics can be controlled and fixers can win only if there is open defiance by MLAs. Now, aspirants will have to think twice before entering the fray on the strength of money. Of late, the Rajya Sabha election had become a money game, with big industrialists spending a large amount to ‘buy’ a seat. This had given the Upper House a bad name. The malaise was not only prevalent in UP, but was also an all- India phenomenon.
In UP, it started nearly a decade ago when several candidates were elected to the Rajya Sabha following massive horse-trading. It is now time to implement the open ballot system in the Vidhan Parishad election, which witnessed massive cross-voting in favour of the BSP.
The BSP, which has 67 MLAs, succeeded in garnering 98 votes, thanks to cross-voting from the BJP, the SP and the Loktantrik Bahujan Dal (LBD). The Rajya Sabha and the Vidhan Parishad elections have left a trail of bitterness in the SP and the BJP, which witnessed considerable migration of votes. The buoyant BSP walked away with the support of MLAs from rival parties. This was certainly not good news for the SP. For the BJP, it amply demonstrated its dwindling stock. Of the 15 open votes from the BJP, the Congress and the SP, 12 went to the BSP.
While the BJP suspended eight MLAs, the SP was dilly-dallying in taking action against five MLAs because of the number game in the State Assembly. Unless the SP launches a massive damage-control exercise, the drift cannot be contained. The results of the RS and Vidhan Parishad elections have also sent a message to the people about the ruling dispensation in the State. “If this is the trend in an indirect election, what will happen in a direct election,” said a senior IAS officer.
The migration of MLAs from other parties to the BSP has once again indicated that they have been desperately hankering for greener pastures. The RLD has been a major beneficiary of the open ballot. The party with just 15 MLAs got its nominee Mahmood Madni elected to the Rajya Sabha.
First Published: Apr 01, 2006 23:58 IST