Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dance of Democracy

Congratulations to all Indians out there celebrating your right to vote in, your own government. Congratulations on the election of a stable coalition government.

I mention below some of the highlights of the 2009 elections:
1. The largest democracy in the world with a population of over 1.1 billion with 714 million eligible voters. I look at Burma, which has had its actively elected prime minister under house-arrest by the junta for the last 20 years, and thank India for my right to have my say.
It is commendable that a population as diverse as India's has managed to stay together for the last 6 decades, and still remain a secular, republican, democracy. You may say its not perfect, but I look at our neighbouring states who achieved independence around the same period as we did. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Should it not be easier for them to manage a much smaller nation. Given the fact that they are not made up of so many religions, languages, and cultures as ours. Pakistan should have been the most strongest of them in that case, for it was built upon the very concept of 'one nation one religion'. You would say they should have had the least problems with their state. But still, everytime a new government is formed, I pray that it is not the victim of another military coup. Thank God, our alliances however shaky do last.

2. 35 parties make up the constitution of the parliament this time. You may laugh at that. But, how else do u represent ever issue of every diverse region in this huge nation. A nation that votes for a different issue in every state. Security in Mumbai, stability in Delhi, economy in Bangalore, caste-clashes in Rajasthan, infrastructure in Chattisgarh, or terrorism in Jharkhand and povert in MP? Cong, BJP, JD, DMK, CPI have all had their agendas and have stuck to them for ages. However miniscule or insignificant or irritable they may be, it is the likes of the MNS, the TRS, the BNP, etc. that represent the smaller issues of the smaller people in the smaller regions of the country, that the bigger parties tend to overlook. My friends ask me whats the point of voting, in such a scenario. The point is, however small insignificant or irrelevant your candidate may seem, the fact that he sits in the parliament (either on the ruling or the opposition bench), allows him to represent your cause in the parliament. If you do not vote, you have lost the opportunity of having your concern voiced in the parliament.
Coalitions have made it possible to break the trend of having one party rule for generations leading to dynasty, heirarchial politics. Thanks to the new wave of younger politicians, the likes of Rahul Gandhi, who refuse to shine under their family names and wish to earn their way into the the cabinet. I hope it only inspires our Priya Sule's and Priya Dutt's to contest fair and not inherited seats.

3. Around 36% of the electorate was made up of the age agroup 18-29. I remember how disgusted I was with the state of affairs during my growing up years. My parents would cast their vote every election, irrespective, while I thought it was a waste of time. Why bother taking time out to go vote for somebody who eventually turns out to be corrupt. Miscreant candidates rig the results anyways, so why bother. Times have changed. Technology has made an appearance. Mass-registration campaigns and electronic polling booths were the order of the day. Media was more creative than ever before. Awareness, which was the forte of a few NGOs, now seems to have engulfed the IT/BPO generation.

4. India successfully completed the most peaceful polling in recent times. While over 20 people were killed in election-related violence this time, the figure was 48 in the 2004 general elections, and nearly 100 in 1999. IPL may decide to take cricket out of the country for security reasons, but polling has to happen here. With electronic booths, booth-capturing and impersonations may soon be a thing of the past. And will also give my generation one lesser excuse for not voting.

5. I still wonder why my bretheren in Mumbai stayed away from the polling booths. Voter turnout went down to 43% from 47% in 2004, especially after the outrage expressed at the terrorist acts in the city. People came out in huge numbers, a la Rang De Basanti with candles to protest against terrorism. 'We will not forget this time' they vowed. I expected a dramatic response from Mumbai this time. Most of my friends to whom Election Day denotes "holiday" said they did not really care about the system or who was in power. These are highly-educated, executives working in multi-national organisations in high positions, who are ready to criticise at the drop of a hat. These are highly ambitious, go-getters who get through daily life fighting with manipulative bosses, competitive colleagues, complicated systems, complex work policies and emerge triumphant. I wonder why we are filled with excuses when it comes to the simple act of registering ourselves and casting our votes.

6. The Election Commission now makes it difficult if not impossible for a candidate with a criminal record to contest the elections. Voters can now have access to information on the qualifications, experience, criminal records, social status of a candidate, before deciding to vote. On the other hand, while the world, queues up for space tourism, India still creates political parties with caste, religion, and regionality as their bases. 60 years after the British left, we still play 'Divide and Rule' politics. Wonder where we are taking this country that our founding fathers created as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.

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