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Cleaning Up 2008-2009 Lok Sabha Elections: ADR Needs Support

Thampan forwards this important email:

Association for Democratic Reforms
Strengthening Indian Democracy: Proposal for the coming General Elections in 2008-09

Trilochan Sastry
Professor, Indian Institute of Management
Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore 560076, India
Phone: 91-80-2699-3285. Fax: 91-80-2658-4050

About ADR
ADR was founded in 1999 by a group of Professors from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad and some alumni to work towards strengthening democracy and governance in India by focusing on fair and transparent electoral processes. Since its founding, it has worked with over 1000 NGO partners around India, disseminating information on candidates and political parties to voters. ADR has also worked closely with the media, the Election Commission of India and eminent citizens around the country. Its founder was elected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008.

The major impact of ADR’s work is at four levels:

  1. Lobbying lawmakers and implementers (various Courts, Election Commission, parliamentarians, etc.) to institute laws and procedures to increase accountability and transparency
  2. Strengthen the monitoring of candidates and political parties on accountability, funding and for transparency.
  3. Increase awareness among the public about important facts and issues regarding candidates, funding, political parties, elections and democracy.
  4. Cause a shift in the profile of candidates winning elections towards people with clean backgrounds.

Sample Impact of ADR’s work
Here is a representative list of impact achieved by the activities of ADR:

  1. ADR filed and won two landmark judgments on candidate disclosure of criminal and financial records from the Supreme Court in May 2002 and March 2003.
  2. Made transparent the financial details of political parties using the Right to Information Act in 2008 after 14 months of persistence with the Income tax Authorities and the central Information Commission.
  3. Has established a network of over a thousand NGOs around the country to do Citizen Election Watch for all major elections since December 2002, disclosing candidate background information to the media and the public.
  4. Has initiated Civil Society non-partisan Election Watches in different states:
  5. In the Lok Sabha 2004 Elections, 19 States and 5 Union Territories carried out Election Watches.
  6. Have conducted Election watches in about 20 states
  7. Bihar Election Watch in Oct-Nov 2005 resulted in intense pressure on the Chief Minister designate for the first time perhaps in decades to have a Council of Ministers without any known criminal record.
  8. Clearance of lakhs of rupees of outstanding dues to the Government for rent, electricity, phone bills, etc. by Members of Parliament (MPs) before standing for (re)elections.
  9. A measurable impact in the fielding of non-tainted candidates by applying pressure on political parties to filed clean candidates.

Objectives for Lok Sabha elections April-May 2009
The coming national elections in April-May 2009 provide a unique opportunity to leverage the network already in place, and the information already collected, to carry out a campaign to further improve democracy. ADR wishes to take a campaign to:

  1. Improve the profile of candidates contesting elections: ADR has already achieved this in the past in state assembly elections, but we expect to take this nationwide through the proposed campaign. Political parties have started reacting to media exposure and have begun cleaning up their Act (e.g., see in Sample impact for Bihar)
  2. Enable voters to make an informed choice: As of now, the information available to voters is limited, and the existing database of over 25000 candidates with ADR will be used to raise voter awareness significantly.
  3. Help keep election expenses transparent and within the legal limit: Again, information dissemination is key.
  4. Strengthen democracy by making candidates and parties more accountable to voters and citizens: Our experience shows that in pockets where dissemination was intense, the candidates and political parties did respond. The campaign will take this nationwide.
  5. Create a platform or platforms beyond the elections to help citizens and Governments work more closely together: We will use our network of over thousand NGOs in the campaign to achieve this.

ADR has information on all major National and State elections in India since 2002. Specifically, ADR will disseminate information to voters around the country through following means:

  1. Traditional print and electronic media,
  2. The Internet (though its reach is still limited in India),
  3. The network of NGOs,
  4. Through mobile technologies(which has grown rapidly in the recent past) ,
  5. And Voice technologies.

One time support needed for Lok Sabha elections April-May 2009:
ADR is currently supported for its establishment expenses by the Ford Foundation. However, it does not have financial support for next year’s general elections. This involves 543 seats to the Parliament (Lok Sabha), and involves around 670 million voters. It is the largest democratic election held anywhere in the world. We estimate that a modest $750,000 can help us do the campaign. We are looking for a one time support for these elections.

How the fund will be utilized
The broad strategy is to use the existing information base, supplement it with more research, and disseminate it steadily starting now until the general elections. As mentioned earlier, this will be done traditional print and electronic media, the Internet, the network of NGOs, mobile and voice. Previous experience of such limited campaigns in Gujarat and UP showed good results with positive reaction from political parties.

For instance, we will build Member of Parliament profiles, political party profiles, and election expense information from our existing data base. Dissemination will be done in English and Hindi (the major language that about 35% of India knows) at the very least. We also hope to do it in 7 other major languages.

Annexture- I Founding Members of ADR
Prof. Trilochan Sastry has a Bachelors in Technology from IIT, Delhi, an MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad, and a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) USA. Has been teaching at IIM, Ahmedabad since 1991 and at IIM, Bangalore since 2003. He has also taught in various other universities in India, Japan, Hong Kong and United States. He was also elected as the Young Global Leader by World Economic Forum in 2008.

Prof. Jagdeep S. Chhokar was Dean at IIM Ahmedabad. He has a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, USA and was Professor at IIM, Ahmedabad, till 2005. He has also taught at Universities in Australia and the US.

Prof. Sunil Handa is a visiting facult at IIM Ahmedabad with a Bachelors in Engineering from BITS, Pilani and an MBA from IIM, Ahmedabad. He has also set up the Eklavya Education Foundation with the mandate of significantly contributing to school education in India.

Prof. Ajit Ranade has a Bachelors in Technology from IIT, Mumbai, an MBA from the IIM, Ahmedabad, and a Ph.D in Economics from Brown University, USA. Has taught at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai for the past five years, before which he has also taught at other Universities in the USA.

Prof. Sudarshan Khanna has a Post graduate in industrial design from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. A recipient of National Award for science popularisation for children, he has Worked with several non governmental and development organisations. He is also a Board member of the International Toy Research Association at Sweden.

Prof. Brij Kothari has a Ph.D (1996) in Adult Education from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA, Masters in Communications from Cornell University, and M.Sc. Physics from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India. Presently he is an Assistant Professor at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Dr. Prem Pangotra was on the faculty of the IIM, Ahmedabad. He was previously a faculty member at the University of Kansas, California Polytechnic State University, and Director, School of Planning (CEPT), Ahmedabad. He has also published two books and several research papers in international journals on infrastructure planning and urban management.

Prof. P.R. Shukla has a Ph.D. from Stanford University, USA. He has worked extensively with government, private and international organizations.

Prof. Devanath Tirupati has obtained a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. He has taught for several years at the University of Texas and is a recipient of the U.S. President’s Young Investigator award and research excellence award of the University of Texas. He is currently a Professor at IIM, Ahmedabad.

Prof. Rajesh Agarwal: A qualified Chartered and Cost Accountant, he was a faculty at the IRMA for seven years prior to joining the faculty of the IIM, Ahmedabad in 1997.

Prof. Pankaj Chandra has a Bachelors degree in Technology from Benaras Hindu University Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA. He is a consultant to several manufacturing organizations and is the current director of IIM, Bangalore.

murali772's picture

improving accuracy of voters' list not a priority???

Surprisingly, I don't find "improving the accuracy of the voters' list" as one of the objectives. Shouldn't that be a top priority, too? Read more at:

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
thampan's picture

Thanks Tarle for posting

Thanks Tarle for posting this mail.

Murali Sir, I support your observation that voters list is an area which needs to be cleaned up.

Though i am not personally associated with ADR, I feel the reason of them not looking at this now could be a decision to focus on one area which needs to be improved instead of looking at multiple items.

I think we should be looking at whether, what ADR is doing is relevant, and can we support it instead of thinking what else could be done.


thampan's picture

Please visit

Please visit for the kind of data that ADR helps to produce along with other organizations.

Page 45 onwards gives some very interesting figures. comment guidelines

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