Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My vote is my right and duty

As election 2014 comes closer the cacophonyof this election is more than many elections of the past. This is inversely proportionate with the substance and content of the issues discussed during the campaigns of the major stake holders. Therefore it becomes paramount that each of us reflects on the real issues and makes an informed and correct choice. Every citizen must exercises his right with a clear sense of duty to the nation. I cannot preach or directly or indirectly influence the voter, but can  only speak for myself as a voter.

Rights of Voter: The most obvious is the right to elect a representative to Parliament, the highest decision making body of the Government. So the question in a Parliamentary democracy is do we choose candidate or party. I think for me a local candidate with integrity and a clean record and who is capable of articulating the aspirations of his constituents effectively at all levels is important. He or she must represent the interest of all sections of society and must believe in participatory democracy, have a full time regular office and staff to look into the problems of his constituents. A member of Parliament must be able to take on even his own party on issues affecting his area and must be prepared to resign or seek re-election if his own Government is pursuing anti-people policies.
The next right is the right to elect a Government.The main quality of a Government in a democracy is a government for the people that pursues policies which are pro people. Good intent is paramount and an honest dispensation which backs bureaucrats and facilitates good governance is what India needs. A government that concentrates on judicious reforms, and basic issues like education and health without taking away or trampling the legitimate rights of the poor is far better than a stable but dishonest corrupt dispensation. The strictest adherence in letter and spirit to a secular Constitution and an idea of a non theocratic state is needed for this country. A pro farmer,  pro environment agricultural policy with zero tolerance to corruption is an absolute must for any dispensation at the Centre. While decisive firm clear headed leadership is a virtue, the danger of such leaders becoming dictatorial and intolerant of anything contrary to their own opinions is very great. A compassionate firm leader with the right mix of emotional quotient with assertiveness is ideal for the nation.
The third right is the right to reject. This has been granted by the. Supreme Court as an option called NOTA non of the above on the ballot box.  While cynically saying sab chor hain sounds the easy way out, I think in the face of the shameless promotion of criminal and communal elements this option should be exercised especially when persons are fielded on the basis of caste community or criminal clout.  These candidates can be rooted out by a popular rejection by ensuring NOTA option gets an overwhelming majority.

I also feel that proportional representation based on vote share rather than first past the post is required to ensure that a dispensation without a majority support cannot have disproportionate powers. Unfortunately often a party with less than 50% vote share gets a disproportionate representation in government. This calls for electoral reforms.

My duty as an educated informed citizen is to study the manifestos of the contending parties and their past record of fulfilling promises made. My vote must not be for my own selfish gain but must be for the greater common good. I see around me rich and aspiring middle class of India disturbingly disconnected with the poor and dispossessed. They seem to think that electing a pro market dispensation will ensure their personal rise. If one votes on such a basis, why should we blame the poor who vote after consuming alcohol or get monetary inducements for their votes.
My duty is to send to Parliament a person of impeccable credentials who will represent all his constituents impartially without fear or undue favour. A person who is an effective communicator and who will not be a disruptive influence on Parliament.
While our system does not give me the right to choose the PM, I will take care that I as far as possible will not contribute to elect a divisive, corrupt or dictatorial person for the high office of PM and leader of the nation.

Voting is a sacred right and a duty and the choice has to be made carefully. In a complex political scenario with multiple choices and conflicting interests it is very easy to get carried away by the noise and media and create a bad government. I sincerely feel that voting for the winning horse or not voting for a good person or party merely because of the perception that my vote will get wasted or will confer an advantage to another party or candidate is a wrong practice.

While the country's destiny is predetermined, we must do our best to vote after understanding and thinking clearly.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

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