Election in Local Bodies

Election in Panchayats and municipal corporations are not as free and fair as those conducted by the Election Commission of India. Examine why and suggest how these elections can be made free and fair. (200 Words)
The Panchayat and Municipal elections are held by the State election commission (SEC) under the State act. It is argued that they are not as efficient as elections conducted by the Election commission of India (ECI) on the following grounds:
  • The terms and conditions of the SEC are subject to the whims of the state government who can change it according to their liking.
  • Such elections are based on caste, creed and other petty matters thus bringing neutrality of such elections into question. There is ineffective monitoring to ensure that such petty issues are not used.
  • The rules regarding campaign expenditure, timing and conduct of polls, staffing of polling booths, use of state police, etc. are different from state to state and are biased in favour of the state government.
  • Corruption, indiscriminate use of campaign money, booth capture, horse trading is rampant due to lack of monitoring mechanisms.
  • State Election Commission should be made an independent body to protect it from state influence.
  • ARC II recommends that SEC should be appointed by Governor on the recommendation of a collegium.
  • Uniformity in election rules across states will ensure fairness.
  • Proper Monitoring and accountability mechanisms to ensure that state governments do not use the SEC for their benefits. They can be made accountable by jurisdiction of courts, or the ECI can conduct regular audits.
  • The SEC can be brought under the ambit of ECI. This will ensure that appointment of state election commissioners and paramilitary forces are unbiased, proper monitoring, transparency, etc.
  • Clarification and early enactment of Model Panchayat Act, 2007
  • To ensure neutrality, SEC should be given status of High Court Judge as recommended by NCRWC
Panchayats and Municipalities form the basic unit of our democracy and effective decentralization to ensure free and fair elections are a must.

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