Sunday, January 29, 2012

On the much needed election reforms

Time and again we forget one thing; the constitution is an active document and not some sacred scripture that is to be preserved under lock and key. Ever since Ambedkar scripted the constitution it has undergone many amendments. But have these amendments really kept pace with the changes in India? Have we made amendments to those sections of the constitution that define our way of life today? Do these amendments plug the crevices and loopholes that exist today and were (hopefully) absent 60 years back? We may have the best constitution in the world but in many ways I feel it’s wanting.

The Indian today is very different from the Indian of the 1950’s. Today we Indians be it from the highest layer of the upper class to bottom layer of the lower class are subjected to some sort of social evil in different degrees. What was then a mystery now is become common knowledge. Infact I’m sure corruption, inflation to name a few are the first English words a child would learn. Repeated attempts have been made in the past of routing out what seems to have become our way of life. The Lokpal made its appearance for the 6th or 7th time and galvanised the nation until it was killed, raped and murdered by the very people who said they would pass it through in the 3 high-voltage day/night session of Parliament. (I seriously wonder what was Team Anna thinking? You make an act that is practically accountable to no one and expect our corrupt parliamentarians to make it a law knowing that the axe would first fall on them? In simple words that was really bad strategy.)

The only way forward and what we should all be putting our energies into is the way we elect out representatives. A party puts up a candidate and we as voters vote for the one we feel is the best. (At times it’s not the candidate we vote for but the party. And now with people changing parties so often we vote for the person without bothering which party he represents) But the question is not which party or candidate would not only solve your problems of today but also prevent the problems of tomorrow. I often wonder how can a person without the basic qualification to secure a job of a professor be allowed to make laws for a demography involving highly qualified and skilled people. Does being elected to the house entitle him to make decisions on my behalf without even caring to know what I feel? Does he bother to know whether I need a flyover bridge or not and consequently spend crores of taxpayers money on it? (I’m not even taking into consideration the increase in costs due to delays) Does he think of how painful it is for me and my kids to travel to office/school/college in crowded trains and choc-a-bloc roads? Does he ask me whether I want my 150 year old city’s name to be changed to a vernacular version just because he doesn’t like it and has the power to change it and also run after me just because I choose to say the old name over the new one?

I believe that an elected representative has an obligation to know and understand what the needs of the people are and then formulate and propose and table in the house a law that solves the issue. Present-day Indian democracy lies in members making decisions as per their will for the entire state/nation just because they have been elected. A member should remember that he/she is a representative and should act like one. He has not been elected to do as he pleases and thinks legitimate but to represent me and be my voice.

But how can I as an individual make sure that only the right person is elected. Going by what we have now is horrible to say the least. In our present-day democracy we have the option of choosing a candidate but do we have a choice? Can I as a lay man reject all the candidates in the fray? One may argue saying that there is section 49-O where I can declare that I wish to vote for none. Agreed but is that a secret ballot then? Why should I make a declaration that I have no interest or confidence in any of the candidates? When I do not have such an option the only option I have is not to vote. Now does the low voter turnout make sense?  

What I propose is that the Right to Reject as in a “None of the Above” (NOTA) button on our EVM’s. The rules are simple. If NOTA wins then all the candidates will be disqualified and will also lose their deposit money. The elections will be re-held with a different set of candidates. Incase NOTA wins again we repeat the same procedure. Many of my friends will complain saying how many elections do you wish be conducted? Well at the beginning we may have some held twice or even thrice but in the long run the parties will be much more responsible and careful about the candidates they put forward and the voters will have much greater role and participation rather than choosing the less evil from the fray.

This would not only bring greater accountability to our politics, check the flow of money during elections, get better people to represent us but also start the trend for a better India and a better tomorrow. After all true democracy is only achieved when the people have a greater role and participation in the functioning of their nation and their nation’s future. 

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