India Insight

Kejriwal’s party gears up for Delhi polls with election reforms

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The Aam Aadmi Party (common man’s party), led by bureaucrat-turned-activist Arvind Kejriwal, is gearing up for state-level polls in Delhi this year with an array of candidates chosen for their honesty.

Kejriwal’s election plank is to cleanse India of corrupt politicians and bring more transparency to government. With graft scandals embarrassing the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Aam Aadmi Party is taking a more grassroots approach to the problem: weed out the bad ones before they become candidates.

Anyone can hope to be a election candidate for the party if they are endorsed by 100 potential voters from the constituency they hope to represent. Political analysts say that’s not too difficult but makes the process more transparent.

Among those who have applied so far are a labourer, a riot victim and a former soldier who fought gunmen during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

With political parties usually considering money, influence and muscle power while choosing candidates, preventing criminals from entering politics is a tough task. In the 2008 Delhi state polls, 91 candidates had criminal cases pending against them; 27 won the elections to become lawmakers.

Indian voters – spoilt for choice?

With 8071 candidates contesting 543 seats – that’s an average of 15 candidates for each seat — the 400 million Indian voters who chose to vote sure looked spoilt for choice.

But were they?

Though democracy means choosing who our rulers are going to be, many say there is a crucial missing link in Indian democracy — the lack of inner-party democracy.

This results in the lack of people’s participation especially in choosing candidates, unlike the U.S. where primaries are held by political parties to elect candidates.

Voting via SMS in the election: reality or fantasy?

A politician asks people to vote via SMS whether they want malls in villages. ‘No way’ — comes their response. 

“What an idea, Sirji,” says a beaming Abhishek Bachchan, appearing as the politician’s tech-savvy secretary in the popular TV campaign for mobile operator Idea Cellular.

‘What an idea’ indeed if people across India can vote for candidates via SMS in the April/May general election.

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