The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quit proposal for poll-bound cabinet

New Delhi, Jan. 22: Chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy today suggested that cabinet ministers of states going to polls, barring chief ministers, finance and home ministers, should resign after elections are announced.

Krishnamurthy was speaking at a workshop on electoral reforms organised by a non-government organisation, the IC Centre for Governance, in association with the Election Commission and the All India Management Association.

He suggested the resignation of ministers as one of the measures that could make the electoral system more transparent and reduce the influence of ruling parties on the electorate.

Last year, the poll panel had suggested 22 ways to reform the system.

The proposals are pending with the government for several months now. The government says the law ministry is examining them.

The recommendation that ministers should resign after polls are announced has been made in the past, too, and has not found much favour with political parties.

'I believe it is the chief election commissioner's personal view. This is not the first time that such a suggestion has been made.... I think all political parties should collectively consider such suggestions and come up with appropriate conclusions,' said Congress leader Ambika Soni.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said: 'It is not possible. Governments do not cease to exist because of elections.'

BJP parliamentary party spokesperson V.K. Malhotra echoed Soni, saying an all-party meeting should discuss it.

The chief election commissioner went much farther than merely suggesting that ministers should resign.

He was particularly scathing on the use of criminals by parties in polls and by the bureaucracy, which, he said, was highly politicised.

'The Election Commission is concerned by the impunity with which criminal elements are threatening the conduct of elections,' he said.

Krishnamurthy, who returned from a tour of Jharkhand and Bihar ' two of the three states going to polls next month ' said: 'The bureaucracy and the lower and middle levels are highly politicised. That is not the case with the upper echelons....'

The poll panel chief suggested that urgent steps should be taken because 'unless we take electoral reforms seriously, there is enormous danger to the continuance of a vibrant democracy in this country'.

He prefaced his suggestions by saying they were being made in his personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of the poll panel.

Among the measures suggested were:

Criminals against whom chargesheets have been framed a stipulated time before elections should not be permitted to contest

Political parties should be made more accountable by being forced to do internal audits of their finances and produce evidence of internal democracy

There should be a restriction on the use of photographs/portraits of ministers/ leaders in posters and propaganda materials

Recommendations of the National Police Commission should be implemented

Voting rights should be given to Indian passport holders outside the country.

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