Electoral reforms and corruption

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Hamara Arunachal has undergone enormous transformation since the NEFA days. The population increased from 3.5 lakhs in 1961 to about 15 lakhs. Initially, the Arunachal legislative assembly consisted of 33 members, out of whom 30 were chosen by direct election and three nominated by the union government. Later, on declaration of statehood, the numbers of MLAs and constituencies were increased to 60. Arunachal Pradesh also has two elected members of Parliament and one Rajya Sabha member of Parliament.

Since the population of Arunachal is very less, the average numbers of voters in MLA constituencies is very less, averaging about 9,000-10,000 voters. In Arunachal, the electorate strength of MLA constituencies varies from the highest of about 62,000 voters in Itanagar and lowest of about 4,300 voters in Anini constituency. In comparison, all MLA constituencies of Assam and other states have about 1.5-2 lakh voters.

Many feel that one of the root causes of corruption and nepotism in Arunachal is due to the lesser voters in the MLA constituencies. In Arunachal, winning about 5,000-6,000 votes is enough to win the elections and become an MLA. Since lesser number of votes are needed to become an MLA, many voters demand huge amounts of cash and other assets like vehicles, bikes, mobiles, tin sheets, etc, in exchange of their votes. In other words, candidates have to spend huge amounts of money during elections of MLAs in Arunachal, amounting to tens and hundreds of crores of rupees.

 On the contrary, in MLA constituencies of Assam and other states, voters cannot be lured by offering large amounts of cash since the numbers of votes required are very high (about 90,000-1,00,000 votes) to win elections. Therefore, elections in Assam and other states are mostly based on ideologies and agendas like development, progress, etc, and thus involve lesser expenditure.

Since candidates spend huge amounts of money during elections, they have to recover the spent amount and also plan for the next elections. This becomes a vicious cycle which keeps repeating every election after election.

There is an opinion that, if the number of voters per MLA constituency is increased to a level wherein it would be difficult to buy off voters, it could finally lead to lesser expenditure during elections. This would further lead to lesser corruption and nepotism. Therefore, there is a need to increase numbers of voters from present average of 9-10,000 voters to about 40,000-50,000 voters per MLA constituency. To achieve this figure of 40,000-50,000 voters per MLA constituency, the MLA constituencies in Arunachal Pradesh need to be reduced to about 30 only.

To counter the lesser numbers of MLAs, the number of Lok Sabha members could increase to four from the present two. Similarly, the number of Rajya Sabha members could increase from one to two.

Indirectly, this also means that common voters are indirectly responsible for the huge expenditures by MLA candidates in Arunachal, which further leads to corruption and nepotism. Do you agree? (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)