CPI(M) Representation Before Election Commission
February 20, 2004
On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), S. Ramachandran Pillai, Member, Polit Bureau and Hari Singh Kang, Member, Central Committee of CPI(M) attended the meeting of the political parties convened by the Election Commission of India today. The following points were raised by the representatives of the CPI(M) in the meeting.
1.The Election Commission should announce the date of elections immediately, so that the model code of conduct will come into operation. The Election Commission should intervene to stop the advertisements issued by the various departments of the Central government about the performance of the government. These advertisements are nothing but political propaganda by making use of the tax payers money.
2.When dates for elections are announced, the Election Commission should take into consideration festivals, harvesting seasons, examinations etc. Elections to West Bengal should be only after April 26 because of the higher secondary school examinations. The elections in Tripura and other North-Eastern states should be in the first phase of elections in view of the terrorist threats and the impending monsoons. As far as possible, elections in a particular state should be conducted in a single day especially in the case of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu etc.
3. The Election Commission should take steps to ban advertisements on TV and other electronic media in order to avoid distortion of the election process by using money power.
4.The amended provisions of the Representation of the People Act provides for a model code of conduct for cable operators. Section 39A (4) reads as follows: "The Election Commission may, for the purposes of this section, make code of conduct for cable operators and electronic media and the cable operators and every person managing or responsible for the management of the electronic media shall abide by such code of conduct." The Election Commission should take immediate steps to make a code of conduct.
5. The Election Commission should regulate advertisements in the print media. Some restriction should be imposed in the publication of poll surveys. The Election Commission can provide a format for that purpose.
6.As per the amended provisions of the Representation of the People Act, the expenditure incurred by the political party except the expenditure incurred by the leaders of the political party on account of travel for propagating programme of the political party is included in the election expenditure of the candidates. The explanation given in section 77 of the Representation of the People Act reads as follows: "(a) the expenditure incurred by leaders of a political party on account of travel by air or by any other means of transport for propagating programme of the political party shall not be deemed to be the expenditure in connection with the election incurred or authorised by a candidate of that political party or his election agent for the purposes of this sub-section." The Election Commission should ensure that the exemption should apply only in the case when the leaders of the political party participate in propagating programme of the political party. The Act does not exclude the expenditure incurred for travelling by a leader of the political party for campaigning for a candidate or candidates.
7. The Kolkata High Court, in 2001, passed a judgement banning of holding of public meetings or using of loud speakers during the period of examinations and also for three weeks before the examinations begin. This is creating restrictions for organising political propaganda. The Election Commission also should intervene to see that the ban is lifted.
8.There are complaints about voters list, polling booths, identification cards etc. All such complaints should be taken care by election authorities as expeditiously as possible. The Election Commission should ensure this.
Letter Written by the CPI(M) General Secretary to the Chief Election Commissioner Regarding Advertisements by Political Parties On TV
February 20, 2004
The Chief Election Commissioner,
Election Commission of India,
Dear Shri Krishanmurthi,
We are writing to you regarding the use of advertising on television by political parties for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. On behalf of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), we wish to place the following views for the consideration of the Commission:
1. In 1999, the Election Commission had banned the TV advertising by political parties as in the previous elections. The EC had noted that whereas the EC had ensured allocation of equitable time slots to recognised Parties on Doordarshan, further advertising on TV would be undesirable because only a handful of major political parties could do so leaving out smaller parties. The EC had noted that this would seriously distort the electoral process and "in a poor country like India, democracy would be totally disturbed by money power." This decision was however reversed by the EC just before the elections to the five state assemblies held in December, 2003.
2. The CPI (M) is of the view that the earlier decision of the EC was correct and should be reissued for the following reasons:
a) Advertising on television is very expensive. The prime time slots for even a few minutes would be in the range of lakhs of rupees. This would open the floodgates for use of big money and vitiate the polls. At a time when serious efforts are required to limit the influence of money, this would be a counterproductive step.
b) The next factor to be considered is that this will create a serious inequality between political parties. Those parties with access to corporate funding (which has been legalized now) and other sources will have an unfair advantage given the reach of the electronic media. Further, we are witnessing how the Vajpayee government is using the Shining India campaign as a surrogate election campaign.
c) The EC is already providing for time on the Doordarshan and All India Radio for recognized parties to conduct election broadcasts. The CPI M) would like this extended not just to recorded speeches but also slots for propagating the parties policies and issues. This will obviate the need for expensive advertising.
d) There is no regulation of the advertising on private television channels. It will not be possible for the E.C. to monitor all the advertising which goes on in a host of channels.
e)The Election Commission should also consider how to regulate advertising in the print media by political parties. While the newspaper advertising may be less expensive compared to television, still extensive use of ads in big newspapers is costly. In such a case, it will be necessary to include the cost of the print media advertising incurred by the party and candidates in the candidates’ expenditure in the constituency. As per present law, only travel expenses of leaders is exempted from inclusion in the candidates’ expenditure.
Promotion of poll advertisements through television will lead to a situation, as in the United States of America where millions of dollars are spent by Presidential candidates and advertising expenses forms a big part of election expenditure.
The CPI(M) would urge the Commission to reimpose the ban on advertising on television by political parties. Since the Commission is considering the poll schedule, we request you to take up this matter of television advertising alongside.
(Harkishan Singh Surjeet),