CPI(M) calls for EC reforms

New Delhi, Aug 30 | Updated: Aug 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Turning the heat on the Election Commission, the CPI(M) on Wednesday formally kicked off the debate to initiate reforms in the poll body and prune its powers by seeking constitutional amendment on the modalities of appointment and removal of the election commissioners and make them accountable for their omissions and commissions.

Suggesting four areas of reforms in the EC and its functioning, party general secretary Prakash Karat said that CPI(M) was in a process of holding consultations with other political parties as well on the issue. These are on the composition and modality of appointment and removal of members of the EC, including the CEC, the ECs jurisdiction, the definition and role of poll observers and the question of law and order and deployment of forces.

ECs must be legally debarred from any office after retirement under the government or as a governor to eliminate any conflict of interest and there should be a constitutional mechanism to to monitor and check if the EC acts with political bias, said Karat.

He also raised objection on article 325 of the constitution, which deals with the powers enjoyed by the EC and asked for urgent reforms in it.

Claiming that an unprecedented 22 lakh names were struck off the voters list in the run up to West Bengal polls and notices sent to sitting and former mps asking them to prove they were not Bangladesh nationals, Karat said the EC was responsible for ensuring the widest, unfettered and informed exercise of voting rights by the people.

He said, under no circumstances can the voting right of a citizen be compromised, notwithstanding the need for revision of rolls and asked whether the poll body had executive powers to order arrest of people overriding the state administration when law and order was a state subject.

Accusing the EC of adopting double standards with different states, the party general secretary said that the EC was biased against West Bengal, while favouring Tamil Nadu during the assembly elections, where political parties were allowed to put up posters and graffiti in rural areas, while in West Bengal it was disallowed.

The CPI(M) demand comes after the Left parties recent brush with the EC over the unprecedented five-phased Assembly elections in West Bengal and the office of profit controversy after petitions against several Left MPs, including Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee, seeking their disqualification.