Tuesday, January 26, 2010

To vote or not to vote

General Elections 2009

Eligible number of voters: 714 million
Voter turnout: 57% (407 million)
Congress vote share: 37.22% (151.5 million)
Congress vote share (as a percentage of eligible number of voters) : 21.21%

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's decision to make voting in local body elections compulsory in his state has to be appreciated for the above fact that the country is being ruled by a party for which only 21% of the voting population voted. When people don't take part in the democratic process of elections, democracy fails. I do not agree with the argument that 'forcing' to vote goes against the principles of democracy. Because democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people. Voting, I consider, is a fundamental duty of any citizen in a democracy.

But compulsory voting cannot be implementing without introducing the 'reject' button in the EVMs. A voter should be given the right to reject all the candidates contesting if he finds them unfit for representing him. But what if the 'reject' votes are more than what any of the contestants got? Bar them from contesting from that constituency until the next elections. Re-elections should be held in those constituencies with fresh candidates. It is true that the election costs would go up if the instances of re-elections are more. But parties would stop nominating unqualified candidates from the next election onwards, thus bringing down the election costs once again. Thus, the introduction of 'reject' button in EVMs, combined with compulsory voting would ensure that we get the best people to represent us in the house of Indian Democracy - the Parliament.

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