To Vote or NOTA
With the recent announcements from the Election Commission of India, the world’s biggest democracy will soon be holding a six-week-long election process; and for the state of Manipur, the first phase of the Parliamentary elections (Lok Sabha) will be held on April 11 and phase II on April 18.
Although Eternal Vigilance is considered the Price of Liberty and exercising ones right to vote is the first step towards this; the baffling question that remains is-“Who do the public Vote for?” And if it is a choice of choosing between the lesser of two evils, not voting could be an equally legitimate and moral choice as countless examples over the years have proved. Analysis of past elections in the Country has indicated that in the last General Elections, a record-breaking 66.38% of the citizens had exercised their franchise. But it is rather debatable that the majority of citizens have voted for the “Right” candidate or party as the recent actions of the present government have shown. Whether it is trying to establish a theocracy or following a policy of “Forced Nationalism,” there is something sinister about it that resembles the Third Reich in muzzling the voices of dissent and criticisms by slapping draconian acts such as the NSA or charges of sedition on journalists, students’ activists or anyone who dares to express dissent against the present government.
The most important factor here is that the very concept of Democracy is voting, but if the people are voting for Autocratic Governance then it renders the whole concept of Democracy meaningless. Not overlooking regional parties in this context, the only other alternative available for the people is a candidate from the Congress Party which is not much of a choice either given its history of past governances and the Dynasty Politics still followed by the main opposition party. This is a classic example of the cliché- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; and unless the regional parties field up a particularly exemplary candidate, the election would just be another redundant example of past errors.
Before casting votes, it is mandatory that every citizen should surely check whether the ruling party or sitting candidate has fulfilled the promises made in their ‘Election Manifesto’; and regarding this matter, the BJP-Led Government has failed at so many counts. Even if a candidate is “good,” one must be always cautious of the party or ideology that the candidate represents; and here it would not be redundant to say that both the hands of the major political parties of the country are bloodier than Lady Macbeth’s hands. This is what happened in the General Elections of 2014, the Congress party was voted out of power in what was considered a landmark victory for the people- the people have elected a government unlike the previous ones. But the results are there for everyone to witness, the people had elected a government that was no worse than the former.
This is obviously a result of the lack in transparency in the process of choosing candidates or Intra-Party democracy; and according to the data analysed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), there are 162 MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha with criminal cases pending against them. However, except for a few such candidates being denied tickets after a public outcry, there does not seem to be much change in this practice by political parties.
Moreover, this policy by political parties have sometimes manifested into a public slugfest between the party and the candidates with defections clearly becoming a norm these days. One can often find that candidates who used to voice strong opposition against the party they have defected to, suddenly singing praises in favour of them after they have been denied tickets by their former parties. When such politicians who are supposed to be the elected representatives or leader of the people behave in this way, it is no wonder, voters are left in quandary whom to vote for.
Here the line “To be or not to be” from Hamlet’s soliloquy and what is probably the most-quoted line from Shakespeare’s works comes into mind. Although several scholars have propounded it be an Existentialist angst, it can be interpolated here as citizens are being forced into meaningless situations where their votes will amount to nothing or everything for the convenience of the one elected. But like Danish philosopher and social critic, Soren Kierkegaard who is also considered to be the first Existentialist philosopher, proposed ‘Each individual- not society or religion- is solely responsible to life and living it passionately and sincerely, or authentically’; people’s decision to vote or not can be regarded in the same way and it would be best that they exercise their legal rights to vote as a duty and responsibility.
But of course, there is always the option of NOTA which is exactly not much of a choice either. So, it is imperative that political parties open their eyes to growing calls for electoral political reforms and take steps towards bringing in intra-party democracy so that they can at the least field their best candidates and making it easier for the voting citizens.
Leader Writer: Danny Haobam
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