New Delhi, Dec. 2: The government today came under heavy fire, even from Congress Lok Sabha members, for making cosmetic changes in electoral rules under the Representation of People Act.
Members cutting across party lines said important issues, such as the growing role of money power in elections, non-participation of a large chunk of the population in polls, mushrooming parties and Independent candidates and the medias practice of splashing paid news had not been dealt with.
The bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha.
Congress MP Sandeep Dikshit made a powerful argument against the use of money power in polls. He drew applause from the Opposition when he said that rival parties could not match the resources of an incumbent government and that itself caused discrimination in the poll process.
He lamented that newspapers were selling space in the name of advertorials without spelling out that the particular news item was sponsored.
Dikshit criticised the Election Commissions ban on cheaper ways of campaigning while allowing parties to spend crores on publicity using the electronic and print media.
Among the amendments is a proposal to more than double candidates deposits for the Lok Sabha elections to Rs 25,000 from Rs 10,000. The deposit for SC and ST candidates would to be raised from Rs 5,000 to Rs 12,500. For the Assembly polls, a candidate belonging to the general category would have to deposit Rs 10,000 compared to Rs 5,000 earlier, and SC/ST candidates would have to pay Rs 5,000 against Rs 2,500 previously.
The BJPs Nishikant Dubey said the amendments were too little to improve the electoral process.
He accused the government of ignoring issues such as amendment to the anti-defection law.
Shailendra Kumar of the Samajwadi Party suggested that voting should be made compulsory and those who do not exercise their franchise should be barred from getting any government benefit.
Rajiv Ranjan Singh of the Janata Dal (United) dismissed the amendments as worthless and described Election Commissions model code of conduct a joke.