Friday, May 8, 2009

An Election "Holiday"

The fourth phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections ended yesterday. Voter turnout was better for this phase four of Lok Sabha elections, as 57 per cent electorates casted their votes. But if you average out the voter turnout.. it will not cross more than 50% so far! Still the fifth phase of elections are pending on 13th of May but I doubt it will have any effect on our average percentage.. however i do fear it might bring this average voter turnout to even lower percentage!!

There is a steady decline in the voters turnout percentage since our independence. It was 67% in 1998 and it is now lingering between 45-50% for some years! I have never seen the voter turnout percentage more than 70% in the history of indian elections!!! Isn't it disgraceful..considering that we are the most POPULOUS democracy in the world!!

Somehow this time I was quite confident that India will vote in masses especially with so many 'Vote India' campaigns including the most famous 'Jaago Re' campaign.. but to my dismay I was wrong :( And now I am in this predicament where I need or rather should find some way out. And the best way was to write this blog. By now, I am sure you would agree with me that we need some kind of electoral reforms and not just an holiday in the name of elections! I have few suggestions/opinions running in my mind and you are most welcome to question/comment/enrich them with your thoughts...

1) First thing is we need to motivate people to come out of their homes and vote.. but how? I know few of my friends who were willing to vote but could not. Reason - They applied for voters ID but could not get it on time before elections. I know few others.. who obtained voters ID but when went to vote, could not find their names in the voters list! They have lodged their complaints in consumercomplaints forum but of no use. I am sure that we all are willing to vote but somehow get stuck taking first few steps to voting! And this is where we need to take some measures.

In France, all youth are automatically registered. Only new residents and citizens who have moved are responsible for bearing the costs and inconvenience of updating their registration.
Similarly, in Nordic countries all citizens and residents are included in the national register. Residents are required by law to report any change of address to register within a short time after moving.

And this process helps in elimination of registration as a separate bureaucratic step and inturn in higher voter turnout.

2)The first step will make the voting process easy for the voters but are we so self-motivated to choose voting over the other priority tasks?! I doubt!
Australia has compulsory voting since 1920 and the voter turnout in Australia reaches 95%!! These rules are strictly enforced, and the country has one of the world's highest voter turnouts. Raised your eyebrows?! You heard it right. Read more.... If a Bolivian voter fails to participate in an election, the citizen may be denied withdrawal of their salary from the bank for three months!

Don't think I am in favor of these options.. I am just trying to show what all measures are already in place in other countries. India needs to do something atleast.

I have one suggestion and I am sure that this will go well with our democratic country. Why can't we introduce some tax exemption for those who vote? I am sure you will find voter turnout close to 100%.. hahahaha..

And for those who are thinking whom to vote out of the worst.. I would like to mention here about Section 49(0) which allows a person to go to a polling booth, register his/her presence by signing and then not vote for any candidate. Such votes are recorded by the presiding officer and are considered for the rejection of all candidates in the fray. And you will more happy to hear that this option was used by 1473 votes in Madhya pradesh who opted not to vote but went to the poll booth and voted under section 49(0). More details can be found here.
I hope we can bring some reforms in our election process too. We need the best people to run this country, as very aptly depicted in the TaTa Tea ad.

I know you would have much more to say here.. Comments are expected :)


Darshit said...

Hey Facts on the election in this post are amazing :) I agree that election should be complusory, but after election we are left with no option but to wait for five years to get over. Why can't we have a same kind of corporate culture where performance of each government is measured each year and published to the country. Whatever promises these politicians are making, they should be recorded somewhere and after each year they must be reviewed how much they really did. They should be more accountable and answerable.

Brijesh Gajera said...

Hey Vineeta, let me first accept that I was one of the people who didn't vote, and worse part is that I had not reg istered, and there are no excuses, just plain laziness. By the way nice suggestion to have tax exemption for those who vote. Though it will only bring salaried middle class in the voting fray, still it's a big class and they are the ones who mostly stay away from voting in India. We need to find the other ways for the people who don't pay tax, and there are many of them. There may be system of vouchers which can be given to those who vote and the vouchers can be redeemed for getting children's education, government services etc.
But the main reason I see for lower turnout is the disillusionment of the people from the political class. There needs to be a way to make politicians accountable and if they are not, a way to make them pay for it. But since they are the ones who make the laws, I don't know how it can be done.

Darshit said...

Yes Brijesh, there has been reforms in all fields in india except politics. When it comes to politics, we are still stuck with same old constitution formed before 50 years. I personally dont find enough reasons to vote. The feeling right now is that with soo many parties, no selection criteria for candidates, no way of having any accountability from those politicians, we are going no where. We are compelled to choose the best out of worse. We desperatley need reforms in our politics. There has to be first a movement to reform our political system and then to vote to drive that system which ppl trust.

Kumar Ahir said...

I thought the same when you said that this time the voter turnout will be more coz of different voting campaigns. And these campaigns were quite successful as in bringing awareness amongst youth/work professional about voting. Now the reason why the campaign didn't succeed. Most of the working professional have moved out from the native to some other region for work and their names are registered in their native(same is my case). So how do they vote from where they are staying currently. There are rules which allows you to vote from any part of the country, just that you have to register yourself in that constituency, just register your old voter id (which is just an identification proof) can work. I went to register on the last day. And to my astonishment my name didn't appear in voter list when I went for voting. When I checked it was found that voters who registered after Jan were not paid much attention in registering though the last date was in March. This was done to ease the process of registration, the officers go to homes and then check the validity of documents. This is time consuming process.
Cutting the crap out, I would say there is dire need to change the way we vote. EVM (electronic voting machine) is a first step towards it. With such a large IT infrastructure (where government is boasting of having provided internet enabled information kiosks in villages) isn't is possible to get registered via mobile or internet? The idea may seem geeky or crazy from security, feasibility and acceptability point of view but if done can bring a BIG change in the way we vote.

Year of Hope said...

Hi vineeta, U did a good analysis here. I would like to comment on your first suggestion of motivating people for voting. There were many advertisements for motivating people to vote, but they too failed in bringing voting percentage up from last time. I initially thought the reason behind this is no electricity in villages and hence they are not able to watch all the Motivating advertisements. But then what happened to Mumbai and Bangalore, these were very well equipped cities, then also such a low voting turnout. I also differ from your idea of making voting compulsory, in India, people don’t want to be forced to do something ;). U also took examples of countries which are having high voting turnouts; these countries have combined population around 8% of our total population. Secondly, they are well developed countries, while India is still a developing country.
Talking about Jaagore, it was a combined effort of Janagraha, a Bangalore based NGO and Jansatta Party and was aired by the help of Tata Tea. It started a year back than also it was not that much successful, Jaagore is trying for 1 billion voter registered on their website by next general elections,i.e.2014. Things will change but not so fast in India. :) I suggest that Election commission of India should introduce online voting to increase voting percentage, same as we have many entrance exams conducted through Internet.

Vineeta said...

I am glad to see so many suggestions/opinions on this article! I am glad because I somewhere knew that all of us feel the same and it proved correct!

I would like to again stress one thing here based on some of your replies. I agree the political system needs to be revamped before we start voting for them BUT at the same time, I feel our only power is 'Vote'. No matter how much you shout, take rallies out, dont vote.. but do you think that will help you achieve what you want.. NO.. NOT AT ALL..

We, should become more aware of the power to vote.. if we are really so disappointed.. show it in your votes.. use section 49-0 and vote against the election itself!! Because its only the vote which can have some impact.. otherwise its democracy.. you continue cribbing/shouting about it.. n things will continue moving as it is!

Anny said...

Hey Vineeta,
I liked the tax exemption part....but I am very sure, govt will be fully opposed to that as that money is meant for politicians vacation allowance rather than welfare of the country ;)

Darshit said...

Yes Vineeta, I agree with your idea of using section 49-0. Not voting for anybody and showing our concern that untill you bring some drastic changes to our political system we will continue voting against the whole system. But we need the change in this political system, enough is enough.

Kumar Ahir said...

Just to bring to your notice Swar and his friends have started a campaign for bringing political awareness amongst Indian youth. You should know your system before condemning it. Visit for more details.

Vineeta said...

Oh yes I came to know about it y'day and I am so happy to see this initiative. I too got to know that you have designed the logo for it! Very impressive and hope it achieves all the goals it has set for it :)

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Arijit said...

First of all Thank you Vineeta for making a blog for such a topic which should draw attention to i think, every citizen of India, well i don't agree with you on giving tax exemptions as it would not help much,as already pointed out by some people ahead of me.....we should stop thinking about personal gains in terms of money... and start thinking about...what the country gains....after voting....what i feel is people like u and me.....we are engineers.and it is often told..we belong to one of the elite classes of the society to bring innovation in technology..but we also should serve the nation and the society...IN THE TATA TEA add he asks one two questions 1. Aapkii Qualification kya hai....2.Chaliye chorie Sir.. aapka work experience baatiyeiii....we have both, still we refrain from getting into politics.....because the system is corrupted.It is high time..that we youngsters like us...get into this activity in a huge mass..and change the way the world thinks about India ... Yes one more thing..even i did not vote...since i did not bear a voter id card of karnataka....whatever may be the reason we are somewhere acting as irresponsible citizen!!!!!