Of the people, By the people, For the people

The right of franchise, your duty to vote is the result of great sacrifice, bloodshed, sweat and tears of millions through history. The ability to vote means that you have a voice, a miniscule voice, which decides who will govern and rule the people of India for the next few years. India has several hundred political parties, and many, many independent candidates. Unfortunately a vast majority of these are crooked with dirty agendas, not at all beneficial for the country. So even with all these choices, the average Indian usually has to settle for the lesser of the evils while voting. Very rarely does one get a chance to vote for a good candidate or party. And so our vote has become quite impotent, and a good citizen is utterly starved for choice.


Could there be a way to change this and force politicians to do the right thing? The first thing that we need to do is actually get out there and vote when it’s time to vote. However impotent or useless you feel your vote is, please go and vote. There are two reasons for this. The most obvious is that a corrupt candidate then cannot buy off your vote. The second will need a bit of an explanation.


If you check out the manifestos of almost all political parties, either in a veiled way or in a direct way, they will favour some group of people in the country. Some minority, some caste is promised a lot. This in itself is not an issue, however when the majority and many others are denied, then there is unnecessary tension created between the people. Why do politicians do this?


There are on an average 5-8 candidates in every constituency who contest for a chance to govern. There will clearly be 2-3 out of them who are the favourites. So, the votes are divided amongst these people plus all the others. There is usually just 40-60% voter turnout on the Election Day. These votes will be shared mainly amongst 3 people in most cases. This means that to win an election, the favourites would only have to worry about getting more than 15-20% of the votes of the entire constituency. So, in order to guarantee themselves these votes, these politicians under the guise of secularism or minority improvement or some such reason, while appearing to be unbiased practice appeasement to certain sections of society. It’s just a game of getting into power.


How does one foil this? Simple, go and vote. Then they will HAVE to take care of the majority as well as the minority because only 20% of the votes of the constituency are not going to guarantee them a return to power. This is what they are supposed to do in the first place. THE reason that vote bank politics is practiced in India and that our country is so divided, is because everyone doesn’t vote. Did you know that in Australia there is a $500 fine for not voting? I would love to see that implemented in India.


Then there is another extremely useless feature called section 49-O. This allows you to say that you do not wish to vote for anyone. First you will need to fill out a form with personal details, so you are no longer anonymously voting, which goes against the very concept of a democratic election. Second even if 80% of the people of a particular constituency use 49-O, the candidate to get into power will be decided on the basis of the remaining people who have voted for someone. So using this option as it stands is pretty much useless.


To make 49-O more powerful and meaningful, a re-poll would need to happen if majority of the people (of a constituency) voted for no one, with very heavy fines imposed on all those contesting from there as well as asking the parties concerned to change their candidate and ban the candidates who are clearly not wanted by the people of that constituency.


Unless these things happen, we will forever be stuck with a government which is definitely Of the people, but not for All the people and elected to power only by some people. The others didn’t vote or used 49-O.


So, to summarize, for now, please vote, and encourage everyone you know (and even those you don’t) to do so too. Don’t use 49-O. Make a choice, however choice starved you are. For the long term, lobby for a more powerful 49-O and fines imposed for not voting. Satyameva Jayate… Let the Truth prevail.


Khurshed Batliwala

[Image source:http://indianelection2009.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/india-flag-and-ballot-