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Make democracy cleaner: President
Published on 26 Jan. 2010 12:23 AM IST
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For a cleaner and healthier democracy, India needs to remove “impediments, lacunae and malpractices” in the electoral process and be the democratic role model for other countries, President Pratibha Patil said Monday. The president in her address at the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission of India said the country had “impressive democratic credentials, but yet has the challenge of becoming a role model for other countries”. “This requires that we should be aware of the impediments, the lacunae and malpractices in the electoral process. These would have to be removed with determination, to make our democracy cleaner, healthier and stronger,” she said. She said the people’s representatives must adhere to values, spirit and principles of the Constitution. “Democracy adorns our Constitution. We have to see that the power of voting vested in the people makes them powerful enough to change their own destiny through democracy and therefore, the importance of making democracy fully participatory,” she said. Patil expressed hope that democracy would be taken deeper to the grassroots to involve people in governance. “Through the Panchayati Raj institutions and local urban bodies, we have sought to deepen the reach of democracy. Their role and responsibility for executing programmes and schemes, particularly social and welfare schemes must increase,” she said. The poll panel has chosen the theme “greater participation for a stronger democracy” for its diamond jubilee year and the president hoped that discussions under the rubric of this theme would be fruitful. Meanwhile the vice president urged that political parties should now have “substantive organisational” democracy. Ansari was speaking at the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission. Leaders of most national and regional political parties -- including Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat, Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari, AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee -- were present too. “Corrective action by the Election Commission and the political parties is imperative to remove blot on the democratic electoral process in the country,” Ansari said. “Despite stringent efforts, unaccounted election expenses constitute the major expenditure of political parties and their candidates. These relate to the distribution of freebies, liquor and cash during elections, the phenomenon of surrogate advertisements, and the extensive media-related malpractice of paid news and coverage packages.” The vice president pointed out that each of these was “a blot on the democratic process and on the objective of free and fair elections. Corrective action by the Election Commission and our political parties is imperative”. He also asked political parties to establish effective organisational democracy. “The Election Commission has insisted upon and enforced procedural inner party democracy in recognised political parties. The challenge for the political parties now is to bring about substantive organisational democracy,” Ansari said. The vice president was also dissatisfied with the state of the grassroots democratic system. “While we have traversed a long distance in providing a constitutional basis for local government, real empowerment and participative governance at the third tier of government is still a work-in-progress,” he said. “It is to be hoped, as recommended by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, that the electoral process at the local self government level would benefit from coordination and sharing of experiences and resources with the Election Commission of India.” The vice president had words of praise for the commission, which, he said, “has been adapting itself in a remarkable fashion to the evolving society, polity and technological changes to fulfil its mandate”. On the eve of Republic Day, he said when a country celebrates its festival, it is also a time for introspection. “A celebration is a festive occasion. In the affairs of a nation, it is also a time for introspection. Six decades on, a fair verdict would be that the glass is neither empty nor full but well above the half way mark,” said the vice president. “We have established and sustained procedural democracy. And yet, Dr. Ambedkar’s foreboding about the contradiction between political equality and social and economic inequality remains valid. The realisation of one person one vote and one vote one value continues to be elusive.”

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