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Home >Opinion >Why local body polls aren’t free and fair

Panchayat and municipal corporation elections come under the purview of the State Election Commissions that are constituted under a state Act, which does not provide for the independence and impartiality enjoyed by the Central Election Commission as their terms and conditions are subject to the whims and fancies of the state government. Consequently, these elections are not as free and fair as those conducted by the Election Commission of India.

There are a number of high court judgements questioning the fairness of such elections.

These are dominated by local issues based on caste, creed and other petty matters that the opposition parties always question the neutrality of the conduct of such polls.

The rules relating to the compilation of voters’ register, timing and scheduling of elections, regulation of campaign expenditure, staffing of polling booths, use of state police machinery, etc., vary from state to state. The ruling parties are often accused of interfering with the conduct of these elections.

There is a clamour in many states, especially by opposition parties, for bringing the administrative control of State Election Commissions under the purview of the Central Election Commission so that the appointment of state election commissioners and deployment of central paramilitary forces by the Election Commission of India can help conduct more fair elections. But this can be done only if there is a constitutional amendment. This will never be accepted by the parties that are in power in the states.

The money power in these local elections is also increasing mainly because the candidates feel success in these elections will improve their image in influencing state patronage and they being identified for various positions in parties and subsequent selection for contesting polls to state assemblies and Parliament.

T.S. Krishnamurthy is a former chief election commissioner of India.

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