As I watched with excitement the finals of Zee Sa Re Ga Ma, glued to the TV sets at a friend’s house, what struck me was the massive number of votes that each of the finalists got. It was a mind numbing figure that crossed a whopping 10,00,00,000!!! Yes! Those were over ten crore votes that were polled! While my friends debated with excitement at how Bengalis reaching the finals of any such show were bound to win due to the massive way they vote, I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony around the fact that these are the same Bengalis who allow their votes to be rigged election after election in West Bengal and allow muscle men to dominate and snatch away their rights to what Bengalis love doing most – vote and debate. After all, Bengal was amongst the first in the world to bring in communism through a democratic process. Though the situation is better in most other states, yet rigging and non-participation in the electoral process remain India’s biggest problems. It is because we believe that our votes count for nothing that the more educated and initiated class in India ends up voting the least. We feel this because we see election results as a process influenced more by muscle-power and rigging in larger parts of India, than not. Millions in India don’t go to vote because there are criminals sitting in the election booths waiting eagerly to snatch away their rights. The current system, despite brave efforts by the Election Commission, is something that suits criminals the most; and that’s why politics in India remains mainly their domain. In my editorial a couple of weeks back, I was excited that Rahul Gandhi is now going to play a more crucial role in Congress. Later, when I sat down thinking, I felt that the fact is, however good his intentions might be, the system would not let him remain clean... and that’s why we need to change the system so that clean people can thrive and do good things without being forced to become criminals/corrupt! And as I thought about the great irony of voting and Bengalis, it struck me – why shouln’t we make our election process also SMS based? After all, no one is allowed to vote without a Voter’s I-card. All we need to do is to have another line out there, wherein voters can write their mobile numbers. And once that is computerised in a very basic process and fed into an electronic voting system, every Indian can sit at home and cast his or her vote – and a much larger proportion probably will – and in turn start changing the political landscape in India!! Of course, if they sent a vote from a different mobile number, it could easily be invalidated; and even double voting could be controlled that way. The way mobile phones are on the rise, this medium would soon cover a large majority of our voters. Those who don’t have a mobile number could still go and vote normally – of course, electronically – so that they can’t vote again from their mobiles. And suddenly, we will see that rigging will become virtually impossible, as no one will be able to control people from using their mobile phones from the privacy of their homes. Certainly, there are other advantages of the system too. The entire cost of managing the election process will come down. The number of days it takes to conduct elections will also come down to a few hours. Furthermore, if we charge a sum of Rs.10 or so for each SMS, the entire election process could then be financed by white money, if that money were to be channelised back according to some formula. The mobile phone companies should obviously be forced to provide this service free of cost as their cost, in any case, is totally negligible, and allowing each subscriber a few free messages (for state and Central elections) every five years is the minimum that they can do. Further, along with this, there should be the final choice that many in India have been fighting for. The choice to vote for ‘None of the above’!! Democracy might take a new form then. In West Bengal, we might have a result that looks like – ‘CPM’ 23%, ‘Trinamool Congress’ 25%, ‘Others’ 1% and ‘None of the Above’ 51%!! After all, Bengalis love voting and doing revolutionary things!! A Trinamool Congress will always be on tenter-hooks even after winning such an election because they would know clearly that they aren’t liked too much more than their rivals! The seats in every Parliament should also be distributed in the ratio of votes polled as it should be in a true democracy. While democracy then will replace the existing DEMON-OCRACY in India, politicians will know that the only way to stay in power is by hard work for the people; and they will start doing that, instead of indulging in criminal activities. And whenever there is a new scam, mobile companies can make some more money by having a snap opinion poll asking voters to comment on whether they still want the government in power. Such opinion polls can’t go wrong, nor can they be debated. We might finally end up getting governments really for the people, by the people and of the people! And if political debates could be aired live before the elections and popularity ranking contests could be undertaken by voters after each round of debates, we might also effectively see an enlightened India, which is as involved in deciding their own futures, as they are in deciding the futures of Debojits and Anik Dhars.
- 11 November 2007 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics