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Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI)

State Conference – Andhra Pradesh

The State Conference of Andhra Pradesh on Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) was held at Hyderabad on 6th and 7th of February 2010.

On 6th it was held in Sundaraiah Vignana Kendram. JM Lyngdoh, Former Chief Election Commissioner of India, K Madhava Rao, Former Chief Secretary and Chief Election Commissioner of AP, Bojja Tharakam Senior Advocate of AP High Court and State President of RPI, K Ramakrishna, former MLA, Jayaprakash Narayan MLA and President of Lok Satta Party, Dr. Manisha Bangar Mulnivasi Mahila Sangh, MC Raj National Coordinator CERI, Jhansi Geddam, Convener, Dalit Sthree Sakthi and Korivi Vinay Kumar President –DBF have participated in the Inaugural session. The other participants were academicians, advocates, and heads of various organizations, elected representatives of local bodies from all over the state.

The inaugural session was presided over by Sri Bojja Tharakam. The CERI manifesto was released by JM Lyngdoh and Sri Kaki Madhava Rao has released Dalithaswamyam.

The Keynote address was given by MC Raj where in he briefly explained about the objective of the 2 days conference and the campaign. He said that we know power as dominance and power as resistance, whereas we need power of participation. This is not being made possible as most of the candidates are winning with only 25% of votes.


JM Lyngdoh, Former Chief Election Commissioner, in his inaugural address termed India’s

democracy as a plutocracy of sorts. He said that the present system with criminals and constant defections will automatically change with the introduction of a system compelling 50% votes for the political parties to win the elections. This would be the starting point towards proportional representation. He said that the Election Commission has the power to register but not to deregister political parties. Hence even when it is clear that a political party has violated the code of conduct, there is no way to prosecute them. He suggested that ruling governments and political parties should be made liable to prosecution.


K Madhava Rao, Former Chief Secretary, shared his experience as the Chief Election

Commissioner of the state and emphasized much on the local bodies, where the dominant communities and their representatives play a key role. They prohibit the dalits elected to the panchayat raj from discharging their duties like wise during elections they try to manage the election officers. To over come this he suggested for private people as the election observers. When the same was put into practice at Khammam Dt in the form of Jayaprakash Narayan, good results have paved admist lot of repurcations.

Bojja Tharakam has said that the representation should be in the ratio of population for all the caste that is the representation of the dominant communities is also restricted in proportionate to their population. The representation of the dalits and tribals can be ensured only through the proportionate representation system. The UPA and NDA could form the governments with mere 30% of votes and how can they reflect the choice of people.

K Ramakrishna has said that the government should bare the election costs and the selection of the candidates should not be based on caste and economic might. More than 300 MPs are multimillionaires. It has gone to a stage that only the people with economic might should participate in elections.

Jayaprakash Narayan has said that unless and until the majoritarian system exists justice will not be done to the unrepresented communities. Still we are clinging on to the old systems of the British. The proportionate electoral system should come in place of the present FPTP. In all the political parties internal democracy is necessary. We will have able and honest candidates only when the parties follow democratic systems.

In the post lunch session the dignitaries on the dias were MC Raj, Jhansi Geddam and Korivi Vinay Kumar. It was open for the floor to share their experiences and spell out their opinions and recommendations on PES. The opinions from the floor are as follows:

Opinions:

  • Hereditary in politics at all levels

  • Resistance from dominant communities on the electoral reform in favour of dalits

  • Money, power and anti-social elements are dictating the politics

  • A rule for compulsory voting should be introduced

  • The SC, ST, BCs are being treated as minority and their role is minimalThe dominant castes are winning because of the votes of dalits.

  • There is no need of politics if all the women and dalits realize their power of vote

  • Even the elected dalit representatives are unable to discharge their duties

  • May loose the existing representation due to PES

  • To establish a separate political party for dalits.

The main fear expressed by all that we will have to forgo the existing reserved seats if the Proportionate Electoral System comes into existence was clarified by saying that the PES has been wrongly understood and has ensured that through PES the representation definitely increases. The day was concluded with the inspiring speech by MC Raj. He reiterated that he is also from a poor, illiterate dalit family. It is only his experience that brought him to this stage. He assured that electoral system of any foreign country be it Germany or any other country would not be followed blindly in our country. A thorough study on all the electoral systems would be done and the one that suits best to our needs would be suggested. He felt happy that a proposal for a separate political party for dalits be established has come from the floor and if such a party is established by dalits, then that would be the largest political party in the country. He also quoted that Ambedkar was for PES in 1985 itself.

The second day started with the cultural programs by the Dalit Sthree Sakthi Cultural Team.

In the pre tea session Sumitra director of Ankuram said that often people tend to forget the root cause of the issue and search for the solution in the peripheral. Only few activists like MC Raj go to the roots and look for solutions. She felt happy that there is women perspective in this campaign. Women should be an equal partner with men in understanding such issues. She opined that this campaign is very essential in this dangerous situation where the so called democracy is in the hands of criminals.

MC Raj shared about the work done by their organization REDS. Their demand was for the allocation of 5 acres land for each dalit family. As a part of this moment, they made 250 members to contest in elections. To get the candidates win in the elections they worked on dalit votes for dalits. Likewise they supported 11 candidates in the assembly elections of Karnataka and 8 candidates have won as MLAs. Later they decided that this campaign should not be confined to Karnataka, but spread all over India. Though they started the campaign with the demand for separate elections, they soon realized that this is not going to work. When they were researching on this, they found that the resolution passed in 1955 by Dr. Ambedkar was different. Based on that resolution, and with the advice of Mr. Walter Hahn, MC Raj studied on the German Electoral System. Today, 15 states have joined this Campaign on Electoral Reforms in India. In this successful journey, Raj proudly says that this campaign is not born out of intellectual exercise alone, but it is born out of experience, sweat and blood. He said that the main task is to understand what Proportional Electorate System (PES) is and what we want to give the future from this.

Later Raj explained with examples power as dominance and power as resistance. While explaining this he said that Dalits, Adivasis, Indigenous people and women are always denied of rights on land, wealth and livelihood all over the world. Dalits and adivasis had self governance, but later on they were not allowed to have spiritual values, space, authority and power. The reason for this suppression is that the thought of intellectuality of dalits itself is threatening for the dominant castes. Then he said that whenever power is exercised as dominance, there is equal resistance for that. Enlightenment, liberalism and individualism are born out of this resistance. But resistance always need not be from the downtrodden group, it can be from the dominant group which is not in alliance with the ruling group. For instance, from the dominance of British in India, due to the resistance of Gandhi, the power was shifted into the hands of the dominant castes. Now there is colonization by the caste system in India. The religion played the role of power and nationalism took its place in the modern times.

Indian political system and democracy are a natural extension that has come from the British. Later the Hindutva forces started taking the power into their hands and promoted cultural nationalism. As it was in the hands of the Brahmins, they wanted India to be a Hindu state. Mohd. Ali Jinnah, Ambedkar, Nehru had liberal thoughts and could not accept it. Patel, Gandhi and others had their own thoughts. At this juncture, the picture of nationalism was quite confusing. When British granted separate electoral system for Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Dalits, Gandhi sat for hunger strike opposing only dalits. Puna Pact came from this and dalits were allotted reserved seats. These seats are neither dominance nor resistance, constituting no power to dalits. Hence there is a need to understand the PES.

In the post lunch session, MC Raj explained about the PES. He said that dalits should have a separate party in every state and at national level, they should have a coalition of all these state dalit parties. Even if all dalits join together, it would constitute only 24%. Hence, the coalition should constitute all the dalits, adivasis and minorities. In the present electoral system, there is no advantage to the dalits and other minorities. There are certain limitations in the PES, but it is better than all the other existing systems. Dual voting system can be introduced in PES where dalits can vote for others, but others cannot vote for dalits.

YL Jayraj said that the whole Electoral System is ruled by money, caste and criminals. In this context, if we don’t look at it with dalit and minority perspective, PES might prove to be waste.

In the concluding session Damodar, Professor JNTU while addressing the gathering has said that this is the appropriate time to campaign on electoral reforms and we should feel proud that the dalits have initiated this process in our country in a big way.

Later Vinay Kumar and Jhansi initiated the process of the state committee and has asked for the interested persons from the participants to join this committee. Below mentioned organizations and individuals has expressed their willingness to join the committee.

Dalit Sthree Sakthi Team, Dalit Bahujan Front Team, Sunitha Prasad, Giri, Sravanthi Human Rights Organization, Kurnool, MV Nageshwara Rao, Machlipatnam, Krishna, AP Raja Babu, All India Human Rights Organization, Vyyuru, Krishna, Shakhila, Jagruthi, Vijayawada, Krishna, Kovena, G Sheshu Kumar, Vaivaka, Mudinepalli, Krishna, Babji, APDBVVU, David, Swajana, East Godavari, Umesh Varma, National Election Watch, Hyderabad.


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