CHENNAI: With the RK Nagar episode bringing to the fore gross poll malpractices and triggering a discourse on the need for electoral reforms to address the malady of voter bribing, the chorus for proportional representation seems to grow louder. However, experts express contrary views on the suitability of the method under the current circumstances in the nation.
Though the fifteenth Law Commission headed by Justice BP Jeevan Reddy emphasised bringing in electoral reforms, particularly proportional representation, nothing seems to have moved in that direction.
Naresh Gupta, former Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Tamil Nadu, feels that the proportional representation system will not suit our nation.
One of the key issues he raises is that under the system if a single party fails to get required majority to form government, it may lead to coalition government and may throw challenges to the parties. “Under such circumstances, how can sharply opposing parties share power,” he asks.
However, political and economic commentator Dr Venkatesh Athreya differs from the views aired by the retired bureaucrat. He says a lot has changed over the years and the system of proportional representation could be gradually implemented.
“What is there in sharing power by political parties? Only the legislature is going to be paramount and the government will remain an executive body under the system,” he explains, citing its successful functioning in several European countries.
Pointing out the huge gap in vote share and seat share under the non-proportional representation system, he says the wishes of the electorate is not at all represented now.
“When you fight for winning more number of seats than your closest rival to form government, you tend to resort to all sorts of unethical practices in the polls, but when you get representation in proportion to the vote share, they can be wiped out,” he argues.
State funding of elections is another concept that is being advocated by many in recent years to curb the flow of unaccounted money that helps influence/induce voters during the polls.
However, senior Congress leader and former MP S Peter Alphonse is sceptical of State funding. “What is the guarantee that candidates would not spend money stealthily to influence voters,” he asks. The point he stresses to stem the rot of voter bribing is only a change in attitude among the electorate. Concurring with him, Gupta says chances for it do not look brighter given the conditions of poverty. “Holes cannot be plugged when the voters naturally expect cash for their votes.”