Electoral reforms


Among the various electoral reforms proposed in the country from time to time, simultaneous polls for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies have been energetically advocated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has argued that the country can ill afford to be in permanent election mode, what with one or the other election being held every year — it is a heavy, continuing drain on the exchequer while governance suffers. Seeking to give shape to this concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’, the Law Commission’s internal working paper has recommended holding the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls simultaneously in two phases from 2019 onwards. The Law Commission’s consultation in Delhi recently on the proposal for simultaneous polls found favour only from 4 parties Shiromani Akali Dal, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party and Telangana Rashtra Samiti, while it was opposed by 9 parties including Trinamool Congress, Telugu Desam, AAP, DMK and the Left parties. The BJP and the Congress both have sought more time to finalise their stand, in what is being seen as a strategic move. The opposition voiced to the proposal primarily dubbed it “anti-democratic and anti-federal” — it was argued that assembly elections centred on local issues cannot be clubbed with and overshadowed by parliamentary elections fought over national issues, that such a move would ring the death knell of regional parties which cannot compete on money power. What remains generally unsaid is that most parties are apprehensive that simultaneous polls riding on some orchestrated or manufactured wave could install a party at the Centre and the States, while wiping off opposition parties altogether from the electoral map. Losing parties would thus have nowhere to recoup and fight another day! Another argument against simultaneous polls is that politics at the Centre may yet become turbulent again, as it was in the late Nineties when short-lived coalitions failed to provide stable governments. If this necessitates mid-term polls to elect a new Lok Sabha, why should it apply to State Assemblies as well? Be as it may, there are several other proposed electoral reforms over which little progress has been made over the years. Parties across the political spectrum have been remarkably on the same page when it comes to their strenuous opposition to being brought under RTI ambit. The same goes for demands to clean up electoral funding, without which there can be no eradication of corruption from the body politic. Instead, the country has now been given an electoral bond system, which has actually made political funding more opaque to the people than before. Parties continue to hand out tickets to candidates with heinous criminal records, while also propping up non-serious candidates to split votes and take advantage of the first-past-the-post system. Hate speeches stirring up casteist and communal passions are being made with impunity on the campaign trail, a menace which the Election Commission has been unable to check so far. Even indirect tax compliance under GST regime is being seriously compromised, as various State governments flout its norms with an eye to the general elections in 2019. Electoral reforms ought to be broad-based and continuous — not in selective chunks to keep political agendas ticking.

Team comes first

It has been a topsy turvy World Cup in Russia, though the semi-final line-up has reaffirmed European dominance over football. France, ranked 7th and first to reach the last four, was expected to do well, boasting as it does talents like striker Antoine Griezmann, winger Kylian Mbappe, midfield duo Paul Pogba and Ngolo Kante and the redoubtable Hugo Lloris under the bar. All of 19, Mbappe has been a sensation, wrong-footing entire defences with electric turns of pace from any position. Perennial under-achievers, 12th ranked England has meanwhile sprung a surprise even for its diehard fans (the uproarious Barmy Army) by displaying a wonderful attacking verve bordering on cheeky irreverence, and in particular prospering from set pieces. Obviously, Gareth Southgate’s homegrown free spirits carry no baggage of the past, like golden boot contender Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, Jesse Lingard and goalie Jordan Pickford. France and England have each won the World Cup once, though the Brits won it so far back (in 1966) that the cry is growing louder across the English Channel “to bring it back home” again. The other two semi-finalists Belgium (ranked 3rd) and Croatia (ranked 20th) are fancying their chances to be in a World Cup final for the first time and snatch the crown, both powered by their own golden generation of footballers. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Vincent Kompany and standout custodian Thibaut Courtois have been turning out with distinction for top British and European clubs over the years. These skilful and visionary players have been welded into a tactically well-oiled unit by manager Roberto Martinez, deadly on the counterattack as they showed in the last gasp winner off a Japanese free kick in the quarters. Croatia too has a talented and battle-hardened team with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitik and Ivan Perisic leading the charge. But what this 21st edition of FIFA World Cup has shown is that numero uno Ballon d’Or footballers like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi can only get so far without a good team. It just goes to show how much Ronaldo and Messi owe to their Real Madrid and Barcelona machines respectively for keeping them ruling upfront. Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic put it in perspective when he said: “Whoever was the favourite to win, the big teams, are all home. Those who are hard-working, who are compact, who are united and who are well-organised, they are here in Russia, and this is the character of the four teams remaining in the tournament”. It is less about individuals now, however great. The team comes first, and all members must pull their weight to prevail in football’s tactical battlefields.