Wednesday, May 12, 2004

India and Elections

India is a developing country. It is considered by several as a third world country. But compared to the other countries which achieved freedom right about when India got hers, even the harshest critic of India has to agree that India has done a lot better. It may not be as advanced as say, the United States. But India is a very functioning democracy and I feel proud that I am an Indian.

The largest exercise in democracy is undoubtedly the current election season in India. India has slightly over a billion population. It is no joke to conduct free and fair elections for so many people. The other nice thing about the current elections is the use of Electronic Voting Machines. Why, even in advanced countries, all elections are not electronic. By using the EVM, India has become a pioneer.

Many countries the size of India have broken into pieces. But India is still one strong nation. It has never been under a dictatorship. It has never been under military rule. The military has always been subordinate to the elected representatives of the people. While this costly exercise in democracy has resulted in lesser progress than what would have been with an authoritarian form of government, we should understand that freedom has a price.

Yes, there are pockets where India is not developed at all. But one should recognize that India is the fourth largest economy in the world. India has a vibrant middle-class that is rooted in secular ethos. The word secular now is much maligned and I for one do not subscribe to the British notion of secularism where religion and state are totally separate. For me, secularism means the equality of all religions under the eyes of law. No one religion is higher or lower than the other. Minority-ism which has unfortunately been the hallmark of several modern Indian political parties is really despised by me. I am not against minorities. I am against mollycoddling them for selfish political gain. Minorities should be one with the nation. While genuine needs need to be fulfilled, the not-so-genuine ones have to be curtailed. We don't want to get into a debate between the genuine needs and those not so, but I feel issues when looked at by an impartial set of eyes can be easily solved.

Anyway, isn't my blog called Random Ramblings ? So I have rambled for a while. But getting back to what I was trying to say, elections are a very colorful affair in India. Since it is a multi-party system in India, you have many parties occupying many positions on the right-left spectrum. It is interesting to see many different ideologies and visions vying for the attention of the voter. The different ways of propaganda - ranging from the posters pasted on the walls to the decorated loud-speaker bearing auto-rickshaws blaring party slogans to the namastes by the widely grinning politicians - are definitely interesting, to say the least. One has to be in India during the elections to experience this.

As a child, I have watched election campaigns and the counting with bated breath. In those days, Doordarshan, the government-owned channel used to have frequent counting updates on television, with movies as fillers to hold the viewers' attention. Though there were no established psephologists, Prannoy Roy(NDTV) and Vinod Dua took the post-election hungama to new heights. There were voter projections, voter swings, nice colorful graphs, interviews with the winners and losers and so much more. Nobody had anything else to discuss.

I lost interest as I grew up, (But hey, I have alwaye voted when I had the chance!) but now, since I will be heading back to India very soon, my interest has perked up quite a bit. The NDA combine had a thrashing in Andhra Pradesh, but it will be interesting to see what happens next. Astrologers are also in the guessing fray with psephologists. It is another thing that both of them don't know their legs from their mouths when it comes to forecasting election results.

Counting begins very shortly (in around 45 minutes) as I type up my blog.

If you see this blog by any chance, please let me know your comments on the whole election festival (yep, that's right!) in India.


No comments: