Democracy. The word comes from the Greek dēmokratía, rule of the people. How come is it that only 60% of us exercise our basic right to vote? Our literacy rate rose 10% in the past decade while in the past two General Elections our voter turnout graph looks like a parabola. India, the nationalization of an idea, has been the world’s largest democracy since around 1960 and it was made to conquer differences of caste, creed, color, culture, cuisine, custom, costume and consonant to emerge as a country which embraced pluralist democracy.
While there are no clear theories to analyze the phenomenon of voter turnout in our elections studies say that heterogeneity in a voting demographic generally leads to a higher turnout. An exercise in democracy comes next year for a country which is very young in terms of the voting populace as the average age will be 29 in 2020. They are faced with an election which poses a very interesting question. Do we re-elect a government whose last term was infested with scams (read: “Coalgate”, “2G scam”,” Common Wealth”) or a man who is being called a “fascist” by some sections of the media? Or, do we exercise the 49-O rule and not vote at all?
This is precisely where we need the Election Commission to bail us out. There should be simultaneous elections for the Union and State Legislatures. Governments need not fear a backlash when they take action. Our fast growing aversion to reactionary politics is why Narendra Modi, the supposed “anti-hero” is being touted as the next Prime Minister of the country. A House need not also be dissolved if a clear majority is not present. It can resume service with an executive Head and form a cabinet with representation according to the percentage of votes secured by each party. Our journalists also need to give a clear picture to the average voter and “paid news” should be clearly highlighted for what it is. Allowing negative/neutral voting is also a solution. It allows us not to choose the “lesser evil”.
The Government has clearly not helped its cause with the rise in inflation and the decline of the rupee. Issues like Naxalism, the marginalization of the north-east, the several proposals for new states, cross-border terrorism and instances of rape are plaguing the country. The dreaded food security bill which is supposed to cater to 67% of our 1.2 billion people and the failing midday meal scheme which in turn is supposed to provide nutrition to 42% of our under-weight children aren’t exactly glowing endorsements either. The UPA government has finally acknowledged Mr. Modi as an opponent. It’s crucial we stand up and take notice too and finally make an informed decision with all our faculties intact.