MUMBAI: Maintaining that India was the biggest but not the greatest democracy due to presence of criminals in politics, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S Y Quraishi today said the government was not acting on the poll panel's proposal to debar criminals from electoral fray.
"Our proposal is pending with the government since 1998...for the past 14 years. We have been chasing them (govt), reminding them (about criminals in politics) but to no avail," he said at a lecture on "Democracy at Crossroads - Need for Electoral Reforms" here this evening.
"The second problem bothering us is the use of money power, particularly black money, in elections," he said adding "our belief is that for every Rs 1 crore we seized during polls, we must have stopped at least Rs 20 crore (from circulation), the CEC maintained.
Disfavouring state funding of polls, Quraishi said "I don't know how state funding of polls will take care of electoral malpractices and corruption."
Voter apathy was another area of concern, he said. "When we don't go out to vote, we don't have any right to criticise political parties."
Expressing "one hundred per cent confidence" in the electronic voting machines, Quraishi said the poll panel will also look into a pilot project in two months for having a printout along with EVMs.
On a lighter note, Quraishi said he personally felt sops like free TV and laptops to lure voters were a good thing. "But this is my personal opinion.
The much-feted CEC was also supportive of the "none of the above" option during voting process. "We want the button which says "none of the above".
The idea of compulsory voting to increase polling percentage was not a practical one, the CEC said. "Compulsion and democracy don't go together."
The top poll official was critical of the "paid news" phenomenon. "Paid news is another issue on which all political parties are unanimous as they have been victims (of the trend)."
He also dwelt on "transparency in political funding" and favoured scrutiny of funds by a panel of auditors named by the Election Commission.
Speaking about "mushrooming" of political parties, Quraishi said "till yesterday there were 1,340 parties. May be, they are becoming money laundering devices."
The poll panel favours banning of government ads in the media six months before polls, he said. "We also want a common electoral roll for Parliament, Assembly and local body elections, the CEC said.