Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien on Wednesday started a discussion in Rajya Sabha on electoral reforms, listing ‘One Nation, One Poll’ as one of the problems. O’Brien spoke about several problem areas in the current electoral system such as misuse of electronic voting machine data.

“For the first time Article 324 was imposed in my state,” the Trinamool Congress leader said. “We have to take the responsibility as to how election commissioners are appointed. Private funding bill had a solution to this.” Article 324 of the Indian Constitution vests the “superintendence, direction and control of elections” in the Election Commission. The election body invoked Article 324 when it cut short campaigning in some constituencies of Bengal before the final phase of voting.

O’Brien urged the Centre not to rush into implementing ‘One Nation, One Poll’. He further listed international companies’ interference in Indian elections as another point of concern.

Pointing out how data has been misused, O’Brien asked the central government what it has done about the right to privacy. He also said that the Data Protection Bill had been introduced in the Lok Sabha. “Since 2017-’19 nothing has happened on the electoral reforms,” the Trinamool Congress leader said. “It is time we have to legislate on electoral reforms.”

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bhupender Yadav opposed to O’Brien’s concerns on ‘One Nation, One Poll’, saying that elections for both the Houses of the Parliament should be held together because lawmakers end up focusing on elections all through the year instead of the problems in the country. “The way we spend on current elections is a major issue,” he said, addressing how the expenses would be less if all the polls were conducted simultaneously.

Separately, Congress leader Kapil Sibal condemned the exorbitant spending during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. “Almost 45% of the amount was spent by the BJP, is what the reports states,” he said, quoting a private agency’s report that said over Rs 70,000 crore had been spent during the General Elections.

Communist Party of India leader D Raja said that a collegium should be formed to appoint election commissioners, adding that simultaneous elections were unconstitutional. He suggested that a proportional representation system with candidate and party lists should be considered.

While Naga People’s Front party leader KG Kenya said voters do not trust an apparatus and that the “human touch” was the best option, Telugu Desam Party leader Ravinder Kumar stated that the ballot system was the solution to the problem with voting machines.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh said that his party was not opposed to technology, adding that if all progressive countries were holding polls through ballot paper then why was India using electronic voting machines.

Law minister’s remarks

“Each voter today knows, that through their vote they can change the government and the minister,” said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at the session. “Female voters turnout was the highest in this election.” He also accused the Opposition of having “double standards” on the electronic voting machines.

Prasad also criticised Sibal’s comments that social media platforms were misused by the BJP during the General Elections. He said that his party would never “allow the misuse of Indian data by foreign powers or foreign companies”.

“There is a need for one electoral roll,” the law minister said. “Election is the festival of democracy and therefore we should ensure that the character of the festival should not be lost.” He also said that the BJP does not have a “closed mind” and added that maybe a proper conclusion can be reached.