It is Election time once again. It is the time we find a lot of people talking about the elections, the candidates, the possible winners. A lot of debate is also occurring on the use of money, on caste equations and the possible implications on democracy itself. The silver lining today is the enhanced participation of civil society and a deep undercurrent for seeking change. I have been travelling around the state of Karnataka interacting with candidates, voters and civil society groups and my optimism has grossly increased. I find the average citizen now being increasingly wanting to engage with the electoral process. While it is a heightened sense of citizenry in some, it is a desire to bring in change in others and it could be pecuniary benefits in a few.
What is also emerging as a pleasant surprise to me is the participation of the ‘middle class elite’ in the electoral process. Today, especially after the recent 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the ‘indifferent middle class’ is suddenly feeling threatened. They now understand that being a mere spectator will not resolve issues. They feel that they need to express themselves constructively and what better way than the electoral process. This is a good sign and the system needs to capitalize on this. We need to ensure that every Indian citizen over the age of 18 understands that he/she needs to participate in the electoral process.
The first step is to enlist and ensure that we are registered as voters. The next step is to study and analyze the list of people contesting for the elections. We need to make sure that we make our choice based on parameters other than money or inducements, caste and the party. We need to make our choice based on the competence of the person, the qualification, the skills he would bring to the office of being an MP, his financial and criminal records and his ability to engage with us – the common citizen in his constituency.
We also need to ensure that we do not relax after completing the voting formality. We need to keep track of our MPs, their performance in parliament, their knowledge and opinion of key National issues and not reduce them to the role of mere municipal councilors. We also need to continuously engage with them for their entire term and make sure that they are held accountable for their performance by their constituents.
If we trace democracy back to its roots, we discover neither its appearance nor its survival is inevitable. Voting helps safeguard our freedom & fundamental rights. A democratic community can only survive if its citizens see participation in the political process as a duty and a responsibility.
Voting connects us to one another as citizens. By agreeing or disagreeing with our leaders through voting we show that the political system can accept differing points of view and can resolve them. By not voting, we break the connections between individual Indians and our community.
Finally, voting connects citizens with our political process. It helps choose our leaders, determines the kind of government we will have, and ultimately the kind of country we will live in.
We need to vote not because it is our fundamental right alone, we need to vote because it is the beginning of making India a vibrant and healthy democracy. Merely being the largest democracy is not enough anymore. Come join hands in making Democracy every Indian’s business. For after all, we cannot let our country be led all the time. We need to make sure that we lead this Nation by choosing the right leaders.