Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Compulsory voting bill - Controversial, Impractical, Dangerous law ?

Ignore my apprentice mind or my (lack of) understanding of polity, if you think the title of this post is not consistent. But my friends, this is how it is being reported in the media - 
•    NDTV reported narendra modi defends vote or face action law - The latest controversy surrounding Narendra Modi is his decision to make voting mandatory for local body elections.
•    DNA called it a Dangerous Law in its editorial

And what does the leader amongst Indian news channels - TimesNow had to ask Mr Narendra Modi(or NAMO) on this - "Why are you so keen on making voting compulsory?"

   For those who are still puzzled and can't see what this is about - here is the news. Gujarat legislative assembly has passed a bill with unanimous vote to make voting compulsory for all local body elections. So all muncipal elections, zila parishad, panchayat elections in Gujrat will be elected by most of Gujratis, if everything goes to plan. Why? Because everyone has to vote, if you don't you will be served notice and will need to give explanation. Off course people may still not vote for valid reasons like illness, out of town etc. And before you ask further, there is an option to reject all candidates. For the first time, people will get the chance to vent their anger through voting and not just choose best among the worst.

   But what is so controversial about it? My apprentice mind has been failing to find the answer to this.
   And Impractical? This could be a valid point, as this has not been tested. But is our media analysing the fine prints raising relevant issues or is it easy (takes little effort) to behave like oppostion parties and say NO NO NO to everything, what NAMO does.

   When this was brought to parliament four years back to make a law, it was rejected. The house was then told that the Dinesh Goswami Committee, which went into matters relating to electoral reforms, had studied the issue and rejected it due to "practical difficulties".

   Interestingly, the response of Election commission themselves is much better than the naysayers. “The issue of compulsory voting has multiple dimensions, and it’s for Parliament to legislate on this. As for the Election Commission, we think it’s not practical to enforce 815 million-odd voters in a country as large as ours to compulsorily vote. Having said that, we would watch the Gujarat initiative with interest,” Chief Election Commissioner Navin B Chawla said.

   What is most pleasing is the response of the general public. Some excerpts
•     There are lot of things in the Indian democracy that are mandatory. The democracy is not perfect but it's at its best when everyone counts and not just a few. Why not make tax returns optional? How does that sounds? Voting in national elections is just once every five years and the compulsory taxes filings are every year? Why cannot this be beneficial? - Maulesh, New York

•     What the heck? Dangerous law? Let the people decide... making democracy strong means dangerous? What is your problem? - Kalpesh, Surat

•     It is very practical provided our political leaders have the will power to implement as they never wanted that Educated people should come out and vote? However since it is proposed by Modi it's not practical? However if the idea was originated from Rahul Gandhi then it was an excellent idea and was practical? Lets give up biased approaches. A good idea is a good idea irrespective of a person who advocates it. - Anurag, New Delhi.

   I can only smile at these childish moaners  - it's a shame and unfortunate for India that these moaners are big influential media houses.
   To me, it is a welcome step in more than one respect, most important being - Any policy should be created for the benefit of majority and not to satisfy targetted few, as has been the case in the history of free India. This bill takes the first step towards reaching there.
   Let's give Modi a fair chance, if we cannot encourage, to attempt what has never been done. Let's criticize him for the gaps and shortcomings rather than blindly using any adjectives we are aware of.


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  2. I for one kindaa agree with ur point of view sir...esp. after having noticed that the voter turnout has been the lowest among the supposedly educated and progressive upper class in mumbai and delhi...let the new scheme emerge with its own strengths & pitfalls rather than just criticize the very idea to death...but one faction within my mind also says this rule is somewhat against the basic tenet of democracy..i welcome it nevertheless..