Need to educate voters for true democracy

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“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” – Winston S. Churchill. In democratic government the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections. Governments are formed through elections by political parties that secure a majority of members in their respective lower houses (Lok Sabha in the central government and Vidhan Sabha in States). When we speak of politics it gives an importance to society, dazzling politics creates good society and atrocious politics creates bad society. Due to lack of educated leaders, a strong politics cannot be built but at the same time, the role of educated voters is also paramount. We can’t afford to hate politics. One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that we end-up being governed by inferiors. The politics of this country is democracy. Democracy is by the people, of the people and for the people. The day, we the people will stop taking active part in the politics of this country, democracy will not survive. Winning or losing the election is less important than strengthening the country. Hundreds of millions of Indians take part in the largest organised democratic exercise. The most striking trend in electoral politics is the explosion in political competition. As the number of parties seeking and winning representation has steadily increased, so has the closeness of elections. The average margin of victory is deceiving. There is a bias built into electoral rules, which often results in a discrepancy between share of votes won and the share of seats earned. Although, the number of players in elections has grown exponentially and the competitiveness of elections has correspondingly shot-up, yet the participation of voters has not gained edge. We should look to bring non-voters into the process for adequate representation. The participation of voters in elections is nourishment for the growth of democracy. “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and under-nourishment” – Robert M. Hutchins.
If we have to unlock the psychology of why so many people don’t vote, it is simply that they are not literate enough to understand the value of vote. Deciding not to vote is not an uncommon stance in India. The number of eligible people who vote has hovered between 50 per cent and 60 per cent, thus non-voters affect outcomes. The winning candidate just represents less than 30 percent of total voters and for the rest 70 per cent, he is a rejected representative. Believing Christopher Federico, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, less trusting people vote less. There are potentially more people who don’t trust the system. Another group of non-voters are people who don’t like the candidates. Some people find politics conflicting and difficult to understand. People who are ‘relatively close-minded’ are more likely to vote as they don’t understand enough about the Government, the election process or individual party policies. This is the vote bank targeted with freebies by political parties to attract, primarily low-income citizens. Social, economic and demographic factors capture the primary socio-economic characteristics driving electoral participation in rural India. Vote banks are social displays of wealth on part of political parties. It makes no difference for them, who are elected and believe that things will go on just as they did before. This is largely down to the education system, which does not enlighten voters with relevant political knowledge. Collectively we can say willingness to participate in voting is on some level, an act of selflessness and on basis of brain washing by political parties or alluring illiterate voters with lucrative sweet candies. The quality of India’s politicians, many argue, has declined drastically. Most are also seen as power-hungry, greedy and corrupt. The increasing number of politicians with criminal records and the brazen use of money to buy party tickets and bribe voters erode India’s ailing democratic process. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated India a ‘flawed democracy’ in 2019. There is still a serious lack of political consensus on many burning issues.
An electoral competition has many demerits. It creates a sense of disunity and ‘factionalism’ in every locality. We have heard of people complaining of ‘party-politics’ in their locality. Different political parties and leaders often level allegations against one another. Parties and candidates often use dirty tricks to win elections. The Government advanced schemes that are reciprocal in nature and quarterly payment of Rs. 2,000 to farmers is the best example of it. Political leaders are motivated by a desire to advance their political careers. They want to remain in power or get power and positions for themselves. They may wish to serve the people they may not know what is required to do so, or their ideas may not match what the people really want (Farmers’ agitation). How to make sure that those people don’t like to be their representatives? This requires a mechanism by which people can call back their representatives (Right to
re-call).
We have seen that city dwellers are less enthusiastic voters than rural Indians. Here illiteracy of rural dwellers plays havoc in electing representatives. Immediately after independence in 1947, the constituent assembly debated whether educational requirements should apply to either voters or political representatives. It was decided against both the options, prizing universal suffrage and political inclusiveness over any other consideration. Given that back then India’s literacy rate hovered around 12 percent, and now India’s literacy rate is almost 75 percent with the most literate state Kerala with 96.2 percent and at the bottom is Andhra Pradesh with a literacy rate of 66.4 percent. Million dollars question: are yet we to be governed by illiterates and our representatives yet to be elected by illiterate voters? It’s not the voting that’s democracy; it’s the counting-Tom Stoppard.
Mahadeep Singh Jamwal

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