Poll panel seeks more powers to rein in errant parties

"There were proposals to bar candidates with criminal backgrounds from contesting elections and we hope this suggestion and several more recommendations would come up before the next parliament session," Chief Election Commissioner S.Y. Quaraishi told reporters here.

Quaraishi was in Guwahati to address a meeting of the regional consultation on electoral reforms. Union Minister for Law and Justice Veerappa Moily also attended the meeting.
"While the world marvels at the beauty of our democratic polity, our eyes get lowered when we see the rise in the number of candidates with criminal backgrounds making it to the corridors of power. This is an issue that has to be dealt with seriously," the poll panel chief said.

Quaraishi expressed concern over candidates making false expenditure statements, while seeking more powers to deal with errant political parties.

"While the Election Commission has the power to give recognition to a party, it doesn't have the authority to de-recognise a party. It's case of oversight," he said.

Moily said: "We have to stop criminals from contesting elections to prevent democracy from being polluted."

"Necessary legislation would be enacted to dispose off criminal cases within three years," he added.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said: "If money power was the only issue that could tilt the balance in favour of the ruling party, then no ruling party would have lost any election in India. Had it been the only factor then all the rich and the affluent people would have made it to the corridors of power."

"People are very conscious today, but we must come up with concrete steps to curb money power from influencing voters and making the poll process free and fair," he added.

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