The Times of India is running a campaign these days. It is primarily about the lost votes on account of India’s huge migrant population both within and outside the country.
They had a special panel discussion session as part of the Times Literature Festival held in Bengaluru on 23rd and 24th February 2019. As per the event brochure Vijayant Jay Panda and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw were supposed to be part of the panel. No explanation was given by the organisers as to why the most well known faces of the session did not attend the session even though they were very much available in the venue for other sessions. A congress member who was also a panelist appeared half way through the session. The session itself started half an hour late. This was perhaps the only session of the day that was not started on time. On the other hand, there was no let down from the audience as it had the largest attendance compared to the three other events happening simultaneously at the venue.
The session started with one of the panelists Mr. SP Anand and the fact was highlighted again and again that he was ninety years old. With due respect to Mr. Anand let me say that the mere fact of being a ninety year old does not give anyone any authority in a particular field.
Half of what Mr. Anand was saying was inaudible and the portion that was audible seemed incomprehensible. The only thing I could make out was that he had made a petition to the Chief Justice of India to make drastic changes in People’s Representation Act. He was upset that his petition was not given due priority. He was also upset that the other panelists were sabotaging his agenda and were diverting the issue. Midway through the session Mr. Anand was so upset he walked out.
One thing I don’t understand is that why should Mr. Anand make a petition to the CJI to bring in changes in the Peoples’ Representation Act. It is not the role of the judiciary to make laws or bring in amendment in the existing laws. The role of the judiciary is to interpret laws. He should have made the petition to the President of India and impressed upon the the political parties to take up the issue.
The title of the discussion was that- MIRROR NOW- CAN OUR DEMOCRACY AFFORD CRORES OF LOST VOTES.
The whole focus of TOI campaign is that there are certain flaws in the existing system that prevents crores of voters from exercising their francise. I do not think so.
Tehre may be scope for iprovement. But I think the existing system is fair. Tehre is a provison in existing lwas whre by a person can change his rigsstaratin a s voter whn he goes to a new place. So the migrant voter has two options. E?ighetrh he can go to his home townm whre is aleady regisered or he can re-sregsiter in the new palce and exercsie his power to vote.
I belong to Odisha. But I have been staying in Bengaluru quite for some time. The issues of Bengaluru effects my day to day life more than what is happening in my home town. So I should be more concerned with the local issues where intend to stay for some more time. I do not have first hand experience of issue happening in my home town. It would be fair that I vote here. But, if I am too much attached to my home town at the time of voting nothing is preventing me to go to my home town and exercise my voting rights. After all for important events in my family I go there. Why cannot I give same importance to voting.
Provisions exist for proxy voting facility for people like the Armed Forces personnel or people who cannot not vote due to official duties related with elections.
Regarding enabling NRIs to vote from their present location, I do not think it is a good idea. They wold be exercising their voting rights without having first hand knowledge of their locality and based upon their old impression or projections in the media. Many of the NRIs must not have visited India for years. How would they know how it is to live in India or their home town since they left India.
Notwithstanding all these, let us assume that 100 % voting has been ensured. We have been able to prevent those crores of lost votes. What is the use if none of the candidates is worth voting for. How many times would you make NOTA win assuming that all the voters turned out be well informed and rational.
My point is – the first priority for democracy should be to get good candidates. If all the candidates turn out to be assholes, ensuring prevention of lost votes is not going to save democracy.
Secondly, how do people decide whom to vote. If people are going to vote based on who gave better free goodies just before elections,
ensuring prevention of lost votes is not going to save democracy.
The press has the power to impact decision making. No doubt, in a progressive multicultural country as ours there are hundreds of issues to highlight. To uphold the spirit of democracy for our common long term good, let the priority be to cleanse the system that prevents deserving people to stand in the election with a chance to win solely due to their merit to become a law and not because of money or muscle power.
I do not think there is anything intrinsically wrong in the current system that prevents the voter from exercising his voting rights. I am a migrant. If I do not care about the locality where I stay currently I have the option to go to my home town and vote. Ideally, I should be concerned about where I am staying for considerable time. If I am not worried about any local issues but only national issue, then also it serves my purpose if I vote in the locality where I am staying.
There is also another factor to consider. The majority of lost votes are not due to the voters who wanted to vote but could not vote, but due to the voters who could vote but did not vote. It is this second category that calls for louder laments.
To conclude, I have a simple solution to prevent lost votes. Let the lost votes be considered as NOTA, and see the panic among the political parties to do the rest. 🙂 😀 😀
P.S. – On day two of the Times literature festival 2019, this was the only session I found disappointing. Overall, I had a good time and my detailed coverage of the event follows.