Of Poll reforms
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave poll reforms a firm push on Friday and a draft law is expected to be placed in the public domain within a month that will include proposals to decriminalize elections, have state funding of polls and measures to strengthen the Election Commission. After nearly year-long consultations and regional conferences, law minister Salman Khurshid met the PM on Friday to firm up a timeframe as well as shortlist proposals that the government feels can be discussed ahead of the winter session of Parliament. Singh might address an all-party meeting on poll reforms as well. While discussions have been on, poll reforms have acquired urgency in the wake of Gandhian Anna Hazare putting them on his agenda after the Lokpal bill. Sources said the draft will contain suggestions received from various quarters including the EC on making polls cleaner and will look at options like state funding although opinion is divided on such a measure. Accurate information on income and tax liabilities, more stringent punishment for candidates providing incorrect or misleading information and disqualification of those who have been charged with “serious” criminal cases are also part of poll reform suggestions. Increasing deposit fees to discourage frivolous candidates, checks in exit and opinion polls — exit polls are banned till elections are over —and increased checks or regulation of election advertising are other issues that the draft will examine. Examination of party and candidate accounts by CAG is another proposal.