Dr. Balu’s blog today talks about yet another celebration – National Voters Day on 25 January. “Proud to be a voter – Ready to vote.”
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Karnataka too has announced a list of activities as part of this celebrations held at 35,567 polling stations besides 175 Taluks , 30 Districts, and the State Head Quarters.
Working with SmartVote, an NGO, during the last Loksabha elections and the BBMP elections, I had opportunities to see how the election mechanism works. In a few meetings with the State Election Officer and Chief Election Officer, we had suggested various simple steps to improve the system. That led to nowhere.
The heat and dust seen during parliament and assembly elections is absent during Legislative Council elections. Even Panchayat elections seems to be a bigger event than Legislative Council elections. Some school elections can make Legislative Council elections appear as non-events.
State Legislative Council is similar to Rajyasabha. MLCs can question the ministers, and can also become ministers themselves. They help government make laws and regulations. Legislative Council can introduce ordinary bills. When an ordinary bill is referred to Council by the Assembly, the Council can suggest changes and return it to the Assembly. An MLC can access the Local Area Development Fund of Rs 1.5 crore.
MLC is an important person, vested with much responsibility and provided with exceeding powers, privileges and facilities.
Of the 75 MLCs of Karnataka Legislative Council, 25 are selected by Legislative Assembly, 25 by local authorities, 11 by Governor, seven each are elected from graduates’ constituency and teachers’ constituency.
The next elections from graduate constituencies are expected to be held in June this year. A friend tells me that there are approximately 19 lakh graduates in the state, of whom only 78,000 have registered as voters for Legislative Council elections – a mere 4%. About 20,000 people voted from these constituencies during the last elections. What meaning does an election hold with 1% of the eligible voters participating?
The CEO Karnataka portal gives the details of celebrations on the day of National Voters Day in 35,567 polling centres.
The CEO and SEO are well aware of the shameful situation of the voter list and pathetic participation by the voters from graduates constituency. Apart from the Voters Day celebrations, they can take a few constructive steps to improve the system. Let us pick only two for now:
1. Most of us do not know if our names are in the voters list or not. It is not easy to find the information from the official website of CEO. The organisation of constituencies and polling stations is not given. During the last BBMP Elections, SmartVote, an NGO, had done good work in providing voter and polling booth details on their website. CEO can provide searchable details of voters and booths in similar way.
2. Majority of the graduate voters are either in some institutes or in some private or public offices. CEO/SEO can take up a drive to register voters at these places, reducing red-tape.