Former CEC’s book on India’s democracy is an indispensable reading

SY Quraishi offers suggestions to improve the institution and the process at the heart of our ‘experiment’

GN Bureau | October 30, 2023


#Elections   #Election Commission of India   #S y Quraishi   #Electoral Reforms  
(GN Photo)
(GN Photo)

India’s Experiment with Democracy: The Life of a Nation through its Elections
By S. Y. Quraishi
HarperCollins, 560 pages, Rs 699

S. Y. Quraishi, former chief election commissioner (2010-12), is considered a walking encyclopedia of electioneering in India. He was born in June 1947, a week before Salman Rushdie, which makes him one of those Midnight’s Children, whose life stories possibly mirror the story of the Republic. (In the introduction, he also speaks of ‘India and me – a journey together’.) He has enthusiastically taken part in many a debate in this republic, and he has always been a voice of reason, of conscience.

‘India’s Experiment with Democracy’ is Quraishi’s second book on the topic, after ‘An Undocumented Wonder: The Making of the Great Indian Election’ (2014). The latest work is, according to the author, “a product of multiple decades of my life … essays, reflections, questions and explorations that have kept me occupied all throughout my career, ever since I started as an IAS officer in the early 1970s”. It is mostly a collection of previously published edit-page articles.

Given the long range of time over which they were written, they cover an immense range of topics, making it necessary to put together the chapters under several sections. They include: General Elections, The Role of the Election Commission: Powers, Procedures and Politics, State Elections, Electoral Reforms, International Elections. Then, the book branches out into other territories: Constitution and Indian Polity, Gender and the State of Democracy, Religion and the Future of India. All this is rounded off with an annexure on Legislative Framework of Election Law in India.

As a result, some of the chapters may seem dated, some comment on a controversy that made news at some point and was soon forgotten. The later sections break the coherence of the book too, making it an unwieldy collection. While the contents of these chapters are no less interesting – anything from the pen of this distinguished administrator of such vast experience is highly readable, but they possibly dilute the core of the book.

This is rather unfortunate, as there is a very coherent and very relevant book inside this book, focusing on Electoral Reforms – the holy grail of India’s democracy. Here he discusses the now formalised  proposal of ‘One Nation, One Poll’. As a former CEC, his views, presented over three chapters, are critically important – all the more so, since few other former CECs have brought their experience to bear on the topic in an elaborate manner.

As the next general elections draw closer, the ten chapters forming Quraishi’s views on “main reforms and recommendations” would be a necessary reading.

In spite of the mixed-up nature of its composition, the book offers a thorough analysis of the institution and the process at the heart of our democracy, and makes eminently reasonable suggestions to improve it further. For citizens who are well aware of their stakes in this system, this book will remain indispensable for long.
 
 

Comments

 

Other News

Lost in Transmission: Why calls ‘drop’, what can be done about it

Random call drops across cellular networks has been a major nuisance for consumers. Despite the advent of technologies like 4G, 5G and users upgrading their phones, they continue face the same old problem of call drops. Earlier, with 2G, calling was the primary service from the mobile telephony firms, howe

India’s Semiconductor Mission takes giant leap

The union cabinet on Thursday approved the establishment of three semiconductor units under ‘Development of Semiconductors and Display Manufacturing Ecosystems in India’. Involving a total investment of nearly Rs 1.26 lakh crore, the three units  -- two in Gujarat, one in Assam – wil

Mumbai Airport: Less congestion, fewer delays, says MoCA

Mumbai is one of busiest airports in India, handling a large volume of domestic and international flights including military, non-scheduled and general aviation flights. Mumbai`s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has two intersecting runways which cannot be operated

“900 tenders worth Rs 150 crore?” For ward-level works: BMC

BrihanMumbai municipal corporation is floating nearly 900 tenders worth of Rs 150 crore in the next 10 days, but that is only for ward-level civic works, the BMC clarified on Monday, reacting to reports in a section of media.    “Since there are 25 wards in BMC, it involves m

Elections 2024: Banks, post offices to chip in for voter education

In a first-of-its-kind initiative, Election Commission of India (ECI) on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with two prominent organisations, the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) and the Department of Posts (DoP), to amplify its voter outreach and awareness efforts ahead of the forthcom

Charming tales of the Snakeman’s early years

Snakes, Drugs and Rock ’N’ Roll: My Early Years By Romulus Whitaker with Janaki Lenin HarperCollins, 400 pages, Rs 699

Visionary Talk: Amitabh Gupta, Pune Police Commissioner with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook Twitter Google Plus Linkedin Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter