Came by this interesting story while reading the newspaper a few days ago - A small village girl was waiting by the side of the dusty road for her poor, illiterate father. "Aapke pocket mai kya hai, abba?", she asked curiously looking at his decrepit face. The father put his hand in the pocket and removed a voter ID card. "Yeh hai meri Aazadi", he smiled.
When an illiterate man can understand the power that that a voter ID card has, why can't the so-called educated class? Or are we so pompous that we should not care? Are we so above 'mediocrity' that we should be obtuse to matters relevant to development of our own motherland? More than 60 years after India gained Independence, if there is one thing that holds this diverse country together, it's this loktantra. The democracy philosophy is etched deeply in the Indian psyche, and no matter what skeptics say, there is nothing that can beat it. With a registered voter base of over 714 million Indians [something which some continents don't even have as net population], this election in India can surely be called as the biggest democratic exercise on the planet. I read somewhere that this time, about $3 billion were spent by parties and candidates on advertising, transportation, endorsements and, you guessed right, bribing. It is expected to give an almost 0.5% stimulus to India's GDP for 2 quarters this year, according to Kotak Securities. The number of polling officials employed by the Election Commission was a staggering 46 lakh. This is just mind-boggling. No wonder foreign countries are simply in awe of this mammoth event. I read in the newspaper few days ago that some countries sent their representatives and Election Commission officials to learn a lesson or two from the Indian Election Commission. Democracy is the best gift that our founding fathers bestowed upon us. We may criticize Pandit Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar, Sardar Patel and others every now-and-then, but it was due to their extreme love for the country that we lead a stable life today. It is because of their cautiousness and thoughtfulness that an event as large, complex and sensitive as this can pass smoothly with minimal hiccups. They rightly have been called visionaries, great men who put the country before their individual egos. Maybe, 150 years of British rule taught us the right lessons at the right time to stay united. India truly was blessed with able leaders at that time. Else, with a diversity much more complex than our own neighbor, we would not have even survived like a fragile nation that Pakistan is now. Sometime back, me and my brother [who too, is interested in politics and matters alike] were comparing some data about the Indian Constitution that he had. We compared our Constitution with the that of countries like France, USA and Argentina. That was one occasion when I really felt proud about my country. But I felt a little ashamed too. I realized how much efforts our past leaders had made in making a near flawless rule-book in the hope that this great nation will never have to face internal or external threats and how conveniently indifferent we have been all along. Even a non-expert like me could easily distinguish and appreciate the level of sophistication invested in the making of our Constitution. It made me realize the base on which our country is founded is so firm and strong.
But why then do we face so much ambiguity when it comes to forming a Government now at the Centre? Why, for the past 20 years has there not been even one single party Government? Why do the major parties have to dance to the whims and fancies of minor, regional parties every single time? This is the real, valid internal threat to India's democracy. And it seems the voter community shrewdly realized this and punished the regional netas [like Sharad Pawar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Smt. Mayawati] to some extent this time. More than 300 parties contested this national election, 7 of whom were deemed national parties [both numbers are just hilarious]. In the event of a fractured mandate, the following things are likely to happen -
1] Immense behind-the-stage bribing and horse-trading [which is evident in some ways already].
2] No matter how accommodating everybody is, it will remain a fragile formation with a constant threat of Government collapse. One partner gone and it could be Game Over.
3] Instead of being a National Government taking decisions of national consensus, every time some regional player will try to extract his 'pound of flesh' by hijacking national policy meetings with petty regional issues. This inevitably will drag down development and correctly indicate that the Government is like a directionless boat.
It took 150 years for this country to realize the virtues of staying united. Do we want to tread down that same nasty road? Do we want history to repeat itself? It's high time we valued the Aazadi that we have been bestowed upon before our country breaks down again into tiny fiefdoms. As I said before, based on this election's mandate, the people of India seem to have been alerted to this possibility, but not in entirety. It is the voter's responsibility to finish off this threat forever.
PS : On a personal note, I did NOT vote this time. I was staying in a random place [in the constituency of Chennai] of which I really know nothing. Had I been in Pune, I definitely would have voted, for I know what matters and what's going on. So, it was rather disappointing when I found out that only 40% of the people in Pune voted. Next time, if I'm in a well-acquainted place, I will note lose my chance; because, as they say, "no vote, no opinion."
Note : This article has also been posted on my other personal blog : this