Monday, January 30, 2012

77% polling is proof democracy is deep rooted in India….

The naysayers will always complain that democracy in India is flawed. That the vote does not really represent the people’s views. That enough number of people don’t participate in the election process. That the real issues never surface. That all of Anna’s movement has been just clean forgotten and hence that must show how miserable democracy is in India. The high polling percentages and the hard-fought battles should put all such naysayers to rest. Indian democracy is perhaps the most vibrant of all democracies anywhere in the world.

If democracy is defined by the level of competition, then there is no match for India. There are almost 10 competitors (on average) for every available seat (1078 candidates for 117 seats in Punjab; 866 candidates for 70 seats in Uttarakhand). Rampant competition ensures that everyone goes for each other’s jugular. Decency is given the go-by and every savory and unsavory fact of every candidate is put out before the public. If politicians are expected to be public figures, the process ensures that they surely are!

If democracy is defined by the power that the people directly have in choosing their rulers (or in throwing them out), then India is far more democratic than the US. In the US, voters vote for their local candidates who are called electors – and they in turn vote for the Prez and the Vice Prez of the country. In India, the people directly vote for their MPs and MLAs. The largest political party thus represents the popular will. Who the CM or PM will be is of course left to these elected representatives. I personally feel the common people in our democratic system have a more direct and vocal say in the choice of the CM and PM than people in the US have in the choice of their President (there have been cases where the President has not represented the popular sentiment).

If democracy is defined by extensive discussions of issues (mostly local), there can be no complaints at all. A comparison of issues discussed in one state with issues in another state will reveal how local the issues really are. While the UP elections are largely on caste and religion based matters, the elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand are on other issues like development, anti-incumbancy, corruption etc. Even within Uttarakhand, the issues are different between the hills and the plains. And since most issues are local, it sometimes creates peculiar situations. Like the Congress is accused of being the most corrupt nationally (though I wouldn’t necessarily agree), but in Punjab and Uttarakhand, it is the BJP and its allies which are considered most corrupt. And in UP, it is Mayawati’s BSP that is considered most corrupt. Corruption is truly a relative concept!

The fanfare associated with elections is something that is truly unique of Indian elections. If it weren’t for the strict control that the EC is now keeping on poll expenses (and some blame the EC for having taken the color out of elections!), then the elections would be rated as one massive jamboree with thousands of crores of rupees being splurged on a single, short (month long) event. It’s a different matter that the rest of the five years are spent re-collecting the monies spent (invested?) with a surplus being built up to account for the inflation (and how high it has been of late!).

One other point. The numbers alone will show how representative our democracy really is. 77% of 1.7 crore voters means that 1.3 crore voters voted in Punjab alone. Do these numbers represent the popular mood or do the media-driven and arbitrarily-counted numbers that sat in support of Anna represent the popular mood? Even if a smaller polling % were taken for the national average, the numbers are staggering – upwards of 40 crores voting people. The message to Anna is clear – the elected reps do carry the support of the masses; they truly represent the people. On the contrary, his movement represents just a small miniscule fraction of that large population out there. Anna has no right to challenge the elected government. If ever there was proof required that activists must remember their real stature, these elections show that amply. If Anna wants to change the system, he must do it from the inside. A person cynical of the democratic system that we have has no role in changing society.

Every state election in India has an impact on national governance. I was surprised but most corporate head honchos I speak with are eagerly awaiting the results of these polls. On everyone’s lips is the hope that the elections will result in a stable government at the center. A government that feels empowered to take decisions. And launch new reforms. Currently, most corporates are hoping that the Congress can find an ally (a well-balanced one so that it wields only a limited influence!) in the SP – thus ensuring that the Congress is rid of the menacing Left-like influence of Mamata. The SP is no supporter of FDI in retail, but it is likely to vote in favor of FDI at the national level, while putting restriction on entry within UP itself. Likewise, the SP being a largely state-level party, and the Congress a national one, the two are likely to tango rather well.

One last point. The pace of activity in the country is frenetic to say the least. I am reminded of the movie “Chicago” – a musical set in the busy city of the same name. This busy city can spare only that much time to any one event – even the murders committed by the lead actors of the film – the celebs of the city – are quickly forgotten as the attention of the city (and the media) goes to the next event. When one looks at these elections being fought now, one wonders how quickly the Anna movement has faded. I am told that some Team Anna members are campaigning in UP, but they don’t even get covered on the inside pages of the newspapers. The Anna factor is not factor at all in these elections. And this is just one month after Anna’s disastrous fast in Mumbai. This is the new, fast paced, rapidly moving India – no one can hog the limelight for too long!

The real truth is that Indian democracy is a matter of pride for the country. It may have many flaws but it surely represents the mood of the people. And it’s the real protection we have against tyranny of any type. With 60 years of regular “practice”, we have now become an expert at this game….. voting out non-performing governments with great disdain every now and then!

No comments:

Post a Comment