What do you understand by the word “democracy”? It has a very cliched definition that we have learned in our school days “of the people, by the people and for the people”. If you analyze into all the prepositions, they have deep meaning and when combined and implemented in true sense they give complete meaning to democracy. We are facing the
#LokSabhaElections2019and Phase 3 concluded on 23rd April and average voter turnout for 3 phases amounted to 68% approximately. If we look at our population then these figures don’t give the confidence of a democratically elected government. Plausible reasons behind absenteeism from voting are one vote cannot make any difference or non-worthy candidates in the field or the possibility of violence etc. The government and EC have tried to rope in celebrities to spread awareness and encourage people to come to the booth and vote. Social media has been flooded with such requests in #LokSabhaElections2019
Now the question arises how should we tackle the issue of non-voting and ensure that the elected government is being run on everybody’s participation? Should we make voting compulsory for all eligible citizens? Or should we impose some rules which mandate them to participate in the government making process?
Let us discuss whether making voting compulsory is feasible in a democratic country like India or not? In a stricter sense of democracy, the element of coercion cannot be imposed because that defeats the very ideals of democratic institution and amounts to tyranny. The intention is definitely correct as to its implementation will ensure an acceptable, less corrupt, more equal and desirable government. But the path and tools are certainly unacceptable and questionable. Now if I look at the democratic setup, similar to the fundamental right to freedom of religion inherently includes the freedom to practice no religion, the right to vote also includes the right not to vote. So we cannot make voting compulsory going by this concept. But we have precedence here, Gujarat has become the first state to pass a bill to make voting compulsory in local polls.
Now let us shed some light and discuss alternatives to increase the voting turnout. Wanted to share few ideas as to how the remaining 32% of non-voters should be mandated to participate in the Election process of the world’s largest democratic exercise.
My idea to change the situation is that after the election, the Election Commission should ask all voters who did not vote in the election to submit the reason/justification on a Rs.10/- stamp paper. For a voter who did not vote, buying a Rs.10/- stamp paper, writing/typing the reason, signing and submitting to the nearest post office would itself be a punishment, and as a result, more and more voters would come forward to vote in future elections, except a few genuinely engaged ones.
This exercise may bring other aspects also. If say in some remote village, a goon comes to a voter asking him not to vote, the voter would send his reply thinking that he did not vote. The Election Commission seeing many such cases may come to know on which booth, or in which village, a significant part of polling was fake?
On the other hand, If a voter did not vote, and he does not file a reason, a list of such non-voters may be published and distributed to vote starving candidates. In such a case, the candidates and political parties would approach these and request them to vote in their favor. Some people may say such reply filing should be made online. Well, while more than one-third of people are not voting, we need some punishment that costs them their time, money and efforts.
Another idea that strikes me is if Election Commission comes with an advertisement at the end of elections, stating “Strict action will be taken against the voters who did not vote, and now do not submit the reason for their absence in the voting process.”, the chaos, the confusion, the mental tension, the indirect pressure would ensure such voters would not take the election process so lightly. In this age of technology, I came across on electronic media the concept of e-voting which can also be taken up as a solution to increasing the polling percentage.
Please think about it and share your views too on this platform!