Monday, April 5, 2010

Representative democracy...

Of late, some mainstream media, few public spirited citizens and many political leaders including some cabinet ministers in karnataka are obsessed with poor voter turnout. The recently held elections in Bangalore for urban local bodies saw abysmal and pathetically low voter turnout of less than 45% according to official figures (but there is still some controversy on the actual number) .. This is a proof of sorry state of affairs in one of the most forward and so called "elite" cities in India.

More i read about elections, i feel sorry that we spend thousands of crores of money on electing a set of candidates who have at maximum 20% people supporting them (If the voter turnout is 45% and if this 45% is split between 4 candidates, the winning candidate will not be having the favour or more than 20% of the population). So, Strictly speaking its not democracy and no where close to it.

Some politicians and many individuals are suggesting that voting must be made compulsory as a remedy to this situation... Well, at the outset this idea looks good, but will it get the desired result. The desired result is not 100% voter turnout but its better governance. How are we sure that better governance is guaranteed by better voter turnout. It may work, but that will be in the very long run. In short to medium run, mandatory voting is unlikely to influence the quality of candidates or the quality of governance.

I believe in participative democracy.. According to me it does not mater if the voter turn out is 5% or 100%, whats important is at-least 50% participate in governance. Its only thought in insane high school textbooks that people participate in governance by voting. Paradigms and tools of participation has changed and is not limited to voting.And it should not be limited to voting in any elite democracy. One recent example is the ongoing road issue inside GKVK campus in Bangalore. The public opinion it has generated is phenomenon.Given the motive behind the project, its clear that whoever the corporator or MLA or CM who has come to power by how much ever votes and by whatever percentage of votes, it would not have mattered to the project. The project would have gone through if the people had kept quite.But the public has used other tools of participation like RTI and PIL to stall the project.. We have many instances like that...

An effective tool in participative democracy is RTI. RTI is a superb piece of ligislation. It is one of the many ways yet a very powerful tool in participating in democracy.Its easy , fast and well institutionalized.. I recently attended a talk by Aruna roy (Magsaysay awardee) . This lady is so proud of the constitution and yet she is in such fierce battle with certain institutions and people who work with the constitution.. We can see for ourselves the results of her struggle. She was instrumental in RTI as well.I am not saying that everyone must be aruna roy.. But being involved in working of the system and participating in governance is critical for better governance (and social change)

Changing the landscape of the country by better voter turnout can never be realized., atleast in my lifetime. My opinion is that, its immaterial if you have voted or not as long as you remain insensitive towards things around you.

We need public spirited citizenry and voting is a small part of it.

(PS:I have voted in every election since i was 18 and every-time, the candidate i have voted for has been victorious and still i have written some 1000 E-mails, 400 letters to the Secretariat, the administrative reforms department, made some 100 odd petitions to commissioners and politicians, have met the present and past MLAs and CMs on one or the other civic issue.)


  1. Good writing,Great thoughts...keep writing :)

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  3. I agree brother...I see that we have become too selfish to even realize that by not participating in the governance we are causing inconvenience to ourselves.
    Thats IRONY!!