The Chief Election Commissioner, N.Gopalaswami has written an article on Election management and absentee electors in The Hindu today. He provides sufficient explanation for holding two-phase poll in the recently concluded Gujarat assembly elections. One did not know that the problem of ADS (Absentee, Duplicate, and Shifted) voters has been a major problem confronting the Commission. The CEC has admitted that in the U.P. assembly elections held last year, some District Election Officers deleted absentee electors’ names without going through the mandatory drill of issuing notices, waiting for replies etc. Similar allegation was levelled against the Commission by the CPI(M) at the time of the West Bengal assembly elections. But at that time, the EC chose not to reply to the CPI(M)’ s allegations carried in the party’s detailed Note after the elections. Therefore, the CEC’s attempt to put the record straight at least in the case of Gujarat and U.P. will be very much appreciated. My last post on the CPM’s note is here.
The CEC also makes a passing observation that the Electors’ Photo Identity Card has not been a success in real terms, because the electors do not take due care of them, while shifting, and also because it is not mandatory, as in lieu of EPIC, other proofs of identity are accepted. He, therefore, makes a valid case for multi-purpose identity cards for every citizen. Although the CEC did not deal with this issue, the question of making the exercise of franchise compulsory for every citizen needs to be seriously considered and debated, if only to eradicate the problem of ADS or bogus voting. The right not to exercise franchise cannot be claimed as part of fundamental right, and there is a need to legally test this proposition.
While I welcome the CEC’s article throwing light on an issue which has remained a problem within the corridors of Nirvachan Sadan, I would strongly urge the CEC and his illustrious colleagues to revive the practice of publishing annual narrative reports – a tradition, which was discontinued for lack of (I assume) interest within the EC. For those interested in knowing more about this tradition, and its contribution, I would suggest my article which has been published in the Journal of Constitutional and Parliamentary Studies, in 2006. As the Journal is not online, I am giving here the link to the unpublished version of the same article.