Come November and Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh will oversee what may be his last round of elections before he retires early next year. In an exclusive interview to Murali Krishnan, the Magsaysay award-winner explains how the forthcoming assembly elections in five states will be different from any other election held till now. Excerpts:
How different will this round of assembly elections be now that candidates have had to declare details of their financial liabilities and criminal background?
This election is going to be different, I suppose, for the middle class. The middle-class voter has gone to the court and obtained this order. To an extent there is going to be much more transparency. Secondly, the law has changed recently. Now, expenses attributed to family members, the political party, friends and relatives cannot be separated from the expenditure of the candidates themselves. We are going to be very strict in assessing the expenditure of the candidates and will certainly note down cases where they have exceeded the limits. More importantly, expenses incurred by the candidates on a day-to-day basis will be put up every third day on a notice board. A copy of his expenses will be given to the returning officer and details of the candidate's expenses will be common property. Obviously, this will form part of petitions in the high court thereafter.
Do you really think this will improve the quality of politicians and give people an informed choice?
This is a small step. But in the long run, it is the people who will decide. Particularly, the vanguard—the educated middle class—that is going to put a stop finally to the deterioration of the polity. Not only put a stop to the deterioration but probably coerce in the improvement of the quality of candidates and, eventually, the quality of governance in...