Democratic Upsurge in India - April Open Essay Winner : Mamta

UPSCPORTAL Open Essay Competition "April 2014"

Winner Essay "Essay Topic: Democratic Upsurge in India"



Democracy necessarily has its essence in “of the people, by the people, for the people”. Democracy is a system where people choose their representatives themselves and these representatives are chosen among us, as any citizen of India (given some constitutional qualifications, which are very general in nature are met) can be chosen to represent people and those chosen representatives are supposed to work for people who chose them to represent themselves. Democracy is the perfect example of “SYNERGY” as no other form of government can work for development of people as the government which is collectively chosen by people.

India is the largest democracy in the world and elections held at regular intervals are its biggest strength. India with a population of nearly 120 million goes to election quinquennially. Since India got independence from British raj we are holding elections on regular basis, it is a great achievement. Universal adult franchise is the fundamental of the building of democracy. Every citizen above the age of 18 has statutory right to vote in the election in India. This voting right is the biggest power in the hands of citizens.

Democratic upsurge in India

India since its rebirth i.e. India after independence is continuously shifting from one government to another but in this transition the essence is the same, India continues to be a shining democracy, presenting an excellent example before the world. The strength of democracy is its people itself. When people come forward to exercise their voting rights then only we can have a vibrant democratic institution. In India initially after independence participation of people in voting was not significant in numbers. But now by efforts of Election Commission and various awareness programs by electronic and print media people are realizing their duty as a voter and their right to have a say in the formation of government. Democracy achieves its fullest strength when all citizens who are entitled to vote actually cast their vote. Generally, people have tendency to avoid participating in the elections. They see voting day as a holiday and voting right as a choice. They fail to recognize the fact that it is they who are going to be impacted by the policy made by the chosen candidates. If they don’t take interest in deciding a candidate then how can they expect that the candidate will take any interest in making policy for their welfare? If citizens today don’t take the pain to go and cast their vote their future tomorrow will become more painful because democracy is democracy till the point people participate in democracy. If a few people are voting to elect the candidates it will be more like assigning power to choose to those few people only. Can we let a few people decide the fate of country? Can we let a few people write our destiny? It is not just right it is duty to vote. Can we blame a system for its inefficiencies when we ourself made the system weak my not participating in its building? Low voter turnout is the problem which needs a great attention. For example if we notice a 60 percent voter turnout in the elections and 50% of the people voting support a particular candidate and he wins but what he actually represents? He represents just 30% of the population. Can he make policies for the welfare of rest 70 percent of population which is not represented by him? In India we don’t have a system of multiphase election i.e. elections in phases till a candidate gets simple majority like more than 50% of the votes casted, for example presidential elections in Maldives. This is not a good practice. To be more specific let’s say there are four candidates and in which first candidate gets 32% votes, second gets 30% and the remaining two get 19% each. In this case first candidate will be declared winner but he represents only a third of the people, which is not a true feature of democracy. But still in India we follow this practice, this could be due to the fact that when we have multiphase election government formation may defer till a candidate gets clear majority, which is itself dangerous for democracy. Secondly, India is a large democracy in terms of number of people eligible to vote. If we indulge in multiphase elections then it might cause huge expenses and thus financial burden on the already stressed economy. Hence citizens here are supposed to play a more crucial role. They should make choices in the manner that the person who finally gets elected must represent a large fraction of population.

The biggest and most debated problem which our democracy is facing is criminalization of politics. From one third to more than 50 percent of the legislators in different state assemblies face criminal cases. This has direct impact on morale of the people. Should a law breaker be assigned the job of a law maker? And even if they make laws and don’t follow them themselves will the general public adhere to those rules? No criminal can come into politics unless they are given tickets by political parties. And political parties while giving tickets only calculate the winning probability of the candidate. If public is given bad options to choose with, the final choice will be bad. Although people argue that it is public which gives vote to the same criminals and brings them to power but if public has no good option then what can be expected other than this outcome? People give their vote to a criminal the reason could be fear as well. The role of political parties in distributing tickets to candidates assumes significance here. They should give preference to person with clean image as this will give them a good image in long run, tainted candidates can assure the win but they can’t assure a good image which is crucial to remain in power.

NOTA is a kind of gift given by honorable Supreme court to people who want to exercise their right to vote but don’t find any candidate fighting election worth of their vote. Although this is a good step in encouraging political parties to field clean candidates but the impact of NOTA option on election results is kind of nil at the end of the day. Since in India we don’t require a candidate to have a certain percentage of votes in his favor to claim victory, even if some portion of the votes goes to NOTA option candidate will be declared winner if he gets highest no. of votes. But on the positive side this option will atleast ensure greater participation of people in voting.

The recent Supreme Court judgment relating to barring of convicted politicians from fighting elections is a welcome step in this direction. But conviction that too of political bigwigs takes quite a long time and the time till which they remain in power gives them window to draft rules in their favor as they are the ultimate rule makers. Cleansing of system takes time but someone has to give start to it and the Supreme Court direction in this regard to set up fast track courts to try tainted politicians will deal with the problem.

Election commission of India is the most reputed and respected authority in our country, specially known for its integrity and impartiality. The steps and caution by ECI has an immense importance in the strengthening of our democracy. Recent steps like making teams of election expenditure observers is appreciable effort in doing away the money power influence in our democratic system. Recent seizure of cash and valuables by election commission expenditure observer team runs in several crores. Election Commission, be it dealing with the cases of violation of model code of conduct, transfer of biased officers to ensure impartial elections or conducting the election on such a large scale deserves kudos. ECI still faces the problem of shortage of manpower but that is taken care by media. Cases of violation of model code of conduct can’t be observed by ECI, role of media in this scenario assumes greater importance. Media also by arranging various interviews of political leaders and expert programs on elections has direct impact on people’s participation in election.

Issue of vote bank politics is the biggest weakness for our democracy. Candidates of various political parties indulge in vote bank politics. Vote bank politics is most talked term but least understood. Political parties, when to influence pattern of voting of a particular group indulges in special promises for that group then it is called vote bank politics. By dividing citizens into different vote banks they forget that they are actually dividing the whole nation. Democracy becomes stronger when all people exercise their voting right as a single group. Further vote bank politics causes fractured mandate and leads to coalition government at the center. In India coalition government first came to power in 1977. Coalition government is characterized by delay in decision making and also there is always a conflict of interest as one party’s supporter benefitted at the cost of other party’s supporters. This causes inefficiencies in running of the government. We as responsible citizens should try to decide our mandate in such a way that parliament runs smoothly.

Issue of tall promises has become an essential characteristic of elections in India. Parties and candidates while making election speeches promise everything other than the reality. From free electricity to less severe punishments on rape, their list includes everything making no sense. Can a nation ever think of providing free electricity to its citizens which is already burdened by a lot of subsidies and our high fiscal deficit causing fear in domestic as well foreign investors. We saw the extent of the fear and its impact on our share market and our currency in not very far past. We have seen recent disturbances in the world democracies. People tired of kleptocracy and inefficient governance resort to protest and this leads to kind of civil war which we witnessed in Syria, Thailand, Egypt, Ukraine and Turkey being the newest one to join. If representatives chosen by people don’t fulfill the promises they made, then people resort to such protests. Political parties while fighting election make huge promises but they should be careful in making such tall promises as if they fail to fulfill the aspirations of citizens, they will be thrown out of the government.

Democracy realizes its full strength when people exercise their voting rights. We are observing in ongoing general elections to form the 16th Lok sabha that although polling reported is moderate, mostly in the range of 60 to 70 percent. We even after 60 years of first general election being held in our country we could not ensure 100 percent voting. If policies made by government affects 100 percent of the people, why not that same 100 percent comes to exercise their rights. If we look at the voting pattern, it’s women who mostly don’t exercise their voting right. Women today contribute significantly to the economic development of the country then why do they leg behind when it comes to political development of the country? There could be several reasons behind it; the most important could be less women candidates. We see parties generally don’t give tickets to women candidates and even if some women are given ticket, the actual head is different. Example of Ms Rabri Devi fits in the context aptly. We have to get away from this patriarchal nature of our society. If women form 50 percent of the population, they should be represented in the same proportion in the law making bodies. This would encourage woman participation in the elections thus further strengthening our democracy.
The recent direction issued by Supreme Court to the ECI to allow defence personnel to vote as general voters in peace stations shows the continuous effort by institutions in strengthening of democracy. Every citizen of India should have the power of voting in his hand. This directly makes us realize our value in the development of the nation.

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