October 15, 2010



Last December, the state assembly of Gujarat passed a bill to make voting mandatory – that bill is still to see a nod from the Governor. Revisiting the issue, L K Advani and Narendra Modi both recently echoed the viewpoint again and asked the legislation to make voting compulsory in the state, especially after a low turnout rate in the recent civic elections. On an average, the voter turnout rate in Gujarat has been around 50 per cent, while a month back Bihar saw a turnout rate of 43-45 per cent! The recent developments with respect to compulsory voting remind me of an editorial of mine that I wrote way back in 2007 – on allowing voting through SMS! Although I never advocate mandatory voting in a democracy, as that is not logical, what is essential is a larger engagement of the electorate which has been diminishing by the day. In fact, this larger engagement need not be just for a few constituencies, but it should be applicable for the whole nation!

Obviously, there is practically no better way to rationalize the electoral process than by making the electorate wider with a singular objective of universal suffrage. Given the current voter turnout rates that hardly touch a mark of 50 per cent these days, the election results fail to reflect the actual mandate, as a major proportion of the electorate chooses not to exercise their franchise! And the most unfortunate part is that a majority of people who abstain from voting are the youth and the educated class. They feel completely disengaged from the election process on account of the process itself (which till recently was full of rigging and other forms of malpractices), the quality of candidates, and the political system as a whole. But then, what most do not realize is that their not voting not only leads to the selection of an incapable person (who is a criminal 25 per cent of the time) but, for that matter, also questions the duties attached to our fundamental rights. This also reminds me of those horror years when India saw the repercussions of low voters’ turnout rate – where the government lasted for few days to few weeks (twice in 1996 and then in 1998) costing the nation massively! The situation has been so bad that the last 13 general elections have seen an average turnout rate of 59.63 per cent (least being 33 per cent and maximum being 61.97 per cent).

The issue of a larger engagement gets more pertinent as conducting of elections are a huge expense to the nation. As per the official reports, India invested a staggering sum of Rs 100 billion – or Rs 10,000 crore – in the last general elections. A trend analysis on the expenditure over the last 30 years indicates that every year the expenditures on Lok Sabha elections increase by nothing less than 40-45 per cent. Over and above the official expenditure, even the political parties indulge in huge expenditures in their respective campaigns and to lure the voters. In 2004, in the much hyped about ‘India Shining’ campaign, the BJP had frittered over Rs 75-100 crore, while the last election saw Congress and BJP spending more than Rs 250 crore each.

Moreover, the idea of a larger engagement in voting is not discreet but is well present across the world. Countries like Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Fiji, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, Uruguay et al, witness an average of 90-95 per cent voting, thus bringing to power those governments that are truly people’s representatives – all thanks to the systems they practice!

As I wrote back in 2007, along with making voting broadbased, it’s important to make it accessible – more mobile polling booths and voting through mobiles/Internet could assure high turnout. And further, along with this, there should be the final choice that many in India have been fighting for. The choice to vote for ‘None of the above’! Democracy might take a new form then. We might have a result that looks like – ‘Congress’ 24%, ‘BJP’ 24%, ‘Others’ 1% and ‘None of the Above’ 51%! The seats in every Parliament should also be distributed in the ratio of votes polled as it should be in a true democracy. While democracy then will replace the existing DEMON-OCRACY in India, politicians will know that the only way to stay in power is by hard work for the people; and they will start doing that, instead of indulging in criminal activities. And whenever there is a new scam, mobile companies can make some more money by having a snap opinion poll asking voters to comment on whether they still want the government in power. Such opinion polls can’t go wrong, nor can they be debated. 3

We might finally end up getting governments truly for the people, by the people and of the people!



HinduBengal said...

Why this incident in Deganga,West Bengal went unnoticed by the media <a href="http://hindusamhati.blogspot.com/2010/09/deganga-riot-pics-september-2010.html'>Deganga attack Pics</a>

HinduBengal said...


Kannan said...

I completely agree with your Idea. Different things for different people. So we need different system to make people to engage in voting

Kedar Kale said...

I find this article highly amateur n imaginary...if it were that easy,why don't u give it try???
Why criticize Modi's good effort.Why is the Governor not approving?he is afraid that more voting from the educated class means heavier losses for the Congress.We have to understand this obvious fact.

soumya said...

inclusion of 'none of these' as a choice in election is a vgood idea.the main reason for the worst state of indian administration are political ignorance and caste card politics.educated youth should understand that their duty don't cease just by paying tax,but being politically aware

soumya said...

inclusion of 'none of these' as a choice in election is a vgood idea.the main reason for the worst state of indian administration are political ignorance and caste card politics.educated youth should understand that their duty don't cease just by paying tax,but being politically aware

Arnab Pratim Baruah said...

The democratic election process in India is reduced to a mockery of sort. I have not voted in my life as I have seen that the value of such a vote is just 10-20 rupees even today, with which you can't even buy a kilo of rice. I can't prove it but every body knows it. Even if I change my mind there is no candidate who have the will to do something for the society but to fill his own coffer. As far as the mobile opinion is concerned who cares for public opinion ? Once a party get the mandate for 5 years they will come to the ground only after expiry of the tenure, that too in places where there is an active opposition, otherwise......

Vanashri said...

"none of theabove "and "compulsory voting" seems to be the only solution in the present scenario. NGO'S like LIBERATE INDIA is already working on this issue . why not join them ? smt v s valecha

srek said...

The percentage of educated India is increasing and as a result voting % is reducing.

I want to tell why i don vote.

1. I don't like any big political party in this country.
They can go on give gifts to ppl who allready don't work by stealling from the ppl who work hard pay TAX.
(I felt proud about Chandrababu Naidu (AP) when he said no free current no gifts when on the other side congress was saying they will give free current and all and TN parties where giving TV's and all , end result he lost the election, and in next election he also had to change bcoz of this.)
2. SO if i don't want to vote for any political party then i shoould vote for an Independent Guy. But it will be a waste as he can not at all win, ok let us think all educated person will come and vote and vote to the same guy whom i voted, but if we all voted to the wrong guy? then)
2. I don't know about the guy who are contesting in my area.(Solution: if there is a single Identification Number , and their is a site where we can find all the cases filed on him with it, about his wealth etc etc , this problem will be solved).

3. There sould be a provision some forum some thing if a goverment is passing a Bill, common people also can login with their single identification number and give their concern instead of just the Ruling and opposition party's acceptance.

For example Ladies Quota.33%.or any Minority Reservations bills.WHy is it good for any one, i don't c any low class woman in any MNS company.
It will be better if the reservation is given to really backward community.
Rajnikant, SOniyagandhi's daughter doesnot require any reservation to get seat in any collage.
If they are gud enough they can get the seat.Reservation's can be given based on the parents Annual Income. There are so many OC ppl whose anual income is not more then 20K and they don't have any reservation's and thier Kid can not get seat in any colleage and he will not even get any scholarship.lots are there.... I have told many things not relevant to this article...
Actually i feel no one should vote if they don't know to whom they are voting until that single identification number comes into existence. Why is it taking so long for a country which is providing so many IT Resources for the world.

GOOGLE , GS AND YOU !! said...

More than that...why not develop systems and processes to make politicians accountable to public...why not appoint independent auditors to audit fiscal accounts and publish the results to the public. the day the fiscal budget is monitored properly people who have come only to earn will run out of the system....and people who have the courage and enthusiasm to lead a country will step forward and make our country a democratic country in true sense of the word.

The day things will become transparent, the modern indian will redeem his faith in democracy and will himself move ahead to vote...

" This blog is managed by The Sunday Indian. We heartily welcome comments on the articles.. However TSI will delete all those comments which are personal in nature and have the usage of unparliamentary language. "