Chief Election Commissioner Dr S Y Quraishi is not embarrassed by activist Anna Hazare's candid confession that Indian elections are corrupt and if he ever contested in one, he would end up losing his security deposit.
When asked about Hazare's statement that Indian voters are not educated enough -- "they take a bottle of alcohol or Rs 500 and cast their vote" -- CEC Quraishi stated that the statement was not at all telling on his job.
He argued, "Not at all, not at all. Anna Hazare is absolutely right. We feel that voter's education is absolutely important. We have set up new divisions for voters' education. The awareness of voters is extremely important in a democracy. They should know that they get voting rights at the age of 18.They should know the implications on democracy if they accept money to vote. They should not be apathetic towards voting. We use icons like (Indian cricket team captain) Mahendra Singh Dhoni to tell voters to not accept money and come out of their houses to vote".
While speaking on Hazare's recent fast to demand civil society participation in the formulation of the Lok Pak Bill, he said, "It is unfortunate that things have come to such a pass. We have been proposing that criminals and the corrupt should be barred from contesting elections and that there should be total transparency in political parties' funding and spending. While the Lokpal issue deals with prosecuting the corrupt, our electoral reforms proposals go much deeper and deal with preventing them from coming to power in the first place."
When asked about the highly controversial statement of Anna Hazare, that he is against the use of electronic voting machines, the CEC seemed unperturbed.
He told rediff.com, "He obviously does not know what all we are doing (in this area). He says the technology should be improved, but we are already working on that. We had called a meeting of all political parties in October last year. Most of them said they have no problem with EVMs. They didn't say that EVMs were manipulated. All they wanted was transparency."
He added, "When you press the button, the vote is going to some electronic device. People don't see where it is going. They want a verifiable paper trail. That's the recommendation of political parties and they want the issue to be referred to independent experts. We have done it. The expert committees have examined all issues."
CEC Quraishi said, "We are waiting for the committee's report. We are also looking at the possibility of getting next generation machines. The EVM was introduced in 1982. It has come a long way, it has been constantly improved. We are noticed by our neighbours too. We have been invited by Egypt to help them arrange the polls. I am leading the delegation soon."