Mumbai:  Maintaining that India was the biggest but not the greatest democracy due to presence of criminals in politics, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) S Y Quraishi on Tuesday said the government was not acting on the poll panel's proposal to debar criminals from electoral fray.
   
"Our proposal is pending with the government since 1998...for the past 14 years. We have been chasing them (government), reminding them (about criminals in politics) but to no avail," he said at a lecture on "Democracy at Crossroads - Need for Electoral Reforms" here this evening.

"The second problem bothering us is the use of money power, particularly black money, in elections," he said adding "our belief is that for every Rs 1 crore we seized during polls, we must have stopped at least Rs 20 crore (from circulation), the CEC maintained.

Disfavouring state funding of polls, Quraishi said "I don't know how state funding of polls will take care of electoral malpractices and corruption."
   
Voter apathy was another area of concern, he said. "When we don't go out to vote, we don't have any right to criticize political parties."

Expressing "one hundred per cent confidence" in the electronic voting machines, Quraishi said the poll panel will also look into a pilot project in two months for having a printout along with EVMs.

On a lighter note, Quraishi said he personally felt sops like free TV and laptops to lure voters were a good thing. "But this is my personal opinion.

The much-feted CEC was also supportive of the "none of the above" option during voting process. "We want the button which says "none of the above".
    
Praising Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav Justice Katju said that he should be given sometime to perform before making any assessment.
   
"A new government with a young CM has been formed in UP, but even before oath ceremony channels started saying goondaraj which is an irresponsible, unfair act and demoralising," he said.
    
The PCI chairman said that Akhilesh should be given sometime for a year or two after which his performance should be assessed.
    
"Anti-social elements are everywhere. Akhilesh has taken acted against such elements and has assured that strong action will be taken," he said.
    
"But even before the government's tenure started it has been condemned which is irresponsible," he said.     
Justice Katju said that he met Akhilesh and felt that he is an enlightened man with modern views and he should be given time to perform and settle down.
    
"If after a year you feel that performance is not good then criticise, but give time and let the government settle down...give him time to perform," he said.
    
The chairman said that for the first time council has decided to give National Award for Excellence in Journalism on national Press Day on November 16.
    
"This award will be given every year in different categories," he said.

Meanwhile, a commotion broke out during the Katju's media interaction when some journalists tried to draw attention of the chairman towards issues related to the journalism fraternity.

During their bid, some journalists started making personal comments on each other leading to the commotion between two groups.
    
Some of them jumped from their seats and raced towards empty area between the dais and started shouting.
    
The brief bursts of verbal dual subsided after chairman Katju intervened and requested both sides to calm down.

Katju, who is on a four-day visit to the state capital, had organised the meet here.

(Agencies)