IN THE backdrop of a string of victories for the BJP, a parliamentary panel headed by senior Congress leader Anand Sharma will discuss from next week the feasibility of electoral options other than the first-past-the-post system that India follows.
With the Centre sanctioning money for the purchase of voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines last month and the Election Commission’s meeting with all parties last week, the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, which meets on May 19, is expected to look beyond EVMs to other electoral reforms such as whether the proportional representation system is a better option for the nation and whether Parliament and Assembly polls should be held together, sources said.
In the first-past-the-post system, a candidate getting the maximum number of votes in a constituency wins the poll, irrespective of whether she has got the majority of votes polled. “There are many governments in office, which are actually not representative but have the majority in the legislatures,” said an Opposition member in the panel.
Citing an instance from the election results of UP, the member pointed out that while Mayawati’s BSP got 22.2 per cent votes, it got only 19 seats, while the SP-Congress alliance got 54 seats (47 and 7 respectively) with a vote share of 28 per cent. “To that, if you add the votes of Ajit Singh’s RLD, which got 1.8 per cent votes and one seat, you see those who got 52 per cent of votes won only 74 seats while those who got 41.4 per cent votes won 325 seats,” said the member.
The issue of first-past-the-post versus proportional representation of seats to political parties based on the votes they poll had come in for a brief mention during a discussion on electoral reforms in Parliament recently.
During the Budget Session in March, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, CPI’s D Raja, NCP’s D P Tripathi and DMK’s T K S Elangovan had argued for the proportional reservation system, saying it would reduce expenditure and control money power. Terming the current system a “weakness” which the country needed to reconsider, Yechury had held that this “distortion” where there is “no rule of majority” can only be corrected by a “partial” proportional representation system.
Tripathi had said only those who get more than 50 per cent votes should be elected.