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Voice Of Our Vote

People have spoken and the verdict has been served. Numbers paint a picture that people of our country have latched on to the hope of “ache din” with both hands. Let us delve deeper into the results of the general election and see how much of that is true. Whether the masses have truly flocked the idea of pan India implementation of “Gujarat Model” or it’s just an aberration or a lucky roll of dice that shall determine the destiny of 1.2 billion people.
After every general elections there is hue and cry for an in depth analysis of first past the post system and its implications in our country. Also, there is a demand for debate on Proportional Representation as a more natural choice for our sophisticated nation. Such demands, for obvious reasons, generally stem from opposition parties. For instance, let us take the 2014 electoral scenario. As per our current system, FPTP, BJP has won 282 seats and congress a mere 44. It seems as if the people of our nation have utterly rejected INC and gave rousing mandate to BJP. Looking at the vote share of 2 parties, for barely 60% more votes, BJP has won whopping 540% more seats. The fact that BJP’s 31.3% is the lowest vote share for any single party or alliance to attain a majority gives a certain amount of legitimacy to those demanding for Proportional Representation system.
In a country as diverse as India, the merits of PR system are plenty. Firstly, it will give a voice to each and every vote which will boost the voter morale increasing turnouts. Regional parties that are often unable to convert votes into seats will be the biggest beneficiaries. One example of such a party this time around is BSP. It has a vote share of 4.2% which is third highest after BJP and INC but still a zero to show for a seat. BJP which single handedly has a majority will be limited to a meagre 169 seats in PR system. So to say that FPTP is an absolutely accurate representation of public opinion is grossly inaccurate.
Criticizing FPTP without looking at the imperfections of PR would be naïve. As pointed above, even with a significant “Modi Lehar”, BJP seems to fall short of majority by a very significant number. But if we consider a worst case scenario, well actually a scenario of past 25 years, that the major national parties don’t have a significant leader with national pull, the PR will bring forth a highly broken mandate. So much that even the two biggest parties, combined, would be unable to put together the magic number. The ramifications of such a distribution are far graver than one sees in FPTP. One also has to consider that on national canvas, PR promotes regionalism and factionalism which are both highly unwanted. PR system has actually been considered by the minds who drafted the constitution. After all, the election of Upper House members is done through PR system of single transferable vote. But there are valid reasons why it was not extended to the lower house.


Right to Vote

“Chaos would prevail in India if we were ever so foolish to leave the natives to run their own show. Ye gods! What a salad of confusion, of bungle, of mismanagement, and far worse, would be the instant result”

– E.H.D. Sewell (Cricketer and Journalist)

These comments were made prior to independence of India. Similar thoughts were expressed in orations delivered by many prominent personalities of the time like John Strachey, Rudyard Kipling & Winston Churchill. Today, India has outgrown the wildest expectations of such skeptics. Today, its a lively democracy build on foundations of Peace & Harmony surging both politically and economically on global front. All these successes and achievements stem from a gamble that played out just right 62 years ago which Sukumar Sen – the first election commissioner of India – rightly suggested at that time as the ‘biggest experiment in democracy in human history’.

This experiment was to adopt universal adult franchise immediately after independence. The west in general had taken a route of franchise based on property, education or gender initially followed by universal suffrage later on. Even the most ardent supporter of democratic governance in modern times, USA, adopted it as late as 1965 with The Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To allow the 176 million strong electorate, most of which was illiterate, to choose the government that will shape the future of the nation was indeed a bold move.

The then prime minister, Pandit Nehru was one of the most vocal supporters of the idea but even he could not hide his uncertainty in the wake of elections. Addressing the UNESCO symposium in Delhi in 1951, he said “Democracy is the best of all the various methods available to us for the governance of human beings.” but concluded with doubts that whether ‘the quality of men who are selected by these modern methods of adult franchise gradually deteriorates because of lack of thinking and noise of propaganda..‘. The success of the elections and subsequent formation of the congress government – despite aggressive efforts of regional and communal forces marred by vested interests – gave Indian democratic setup a solid beginning beyond expectations of everyone.

Since then, the right to vote has been exercised time to time by the Indian masses to give their verdict on events of National or Regional importance be it the victory of E.M.S. Namboodiripad in Kerela in 1957 or the post emergency defeat of Congress in 1977. The right to vote is no doubt the most powerful tool that the democratic setup offers only if one can stay clear of ‘lethargic thinking or noisy propaganda’.

Its 2014 and once again the time to exercise the right has come. No matter how many excuses the ‘intelligentsia’ of our society give to not vote, they cannot escape the fact that they are the ones with responsibility to think for the ones, who might not be able to do it for themselves. People who complain about governments the most but are too lazy to get out of bed for an hour to vote, expect a government that handles a billions of tax rupees responsibly at the same time forming progressive policies. But they let the government to be chosen by people with a rudimentary mind setup who vote for caste or religion.

The intellectuals of our nation have to realize the importance of their vote. Its a thoughtful vote, untouched by prejudices, that makes the difference. When a famished poor daily wager votes for a plate of food, its not his fault. But when the doctors & engineers, managers & teachers, avoid voting out of lethargy then its a cardinal sin. As Theodore Roosevelt said “Vote is like a rifle whose usefulness depends upon the character of the user”. The biggest fear of a corrupt politician is not Jan Lokpal or RTI or Anna Hazare. Its the fact that no matter how much money one person holds, he has only one vote!