Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Voter indifference a threat to Democracy: Dr. JP

The apathy of voters to exercising their franchise in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections either out of revulsion or contempt for politics is a matter of grave concern, said Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, Lok Satta Party President, here today.

Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP said the voter behavior does not bode well for democracy. Assuming that the percentage of polling was about 44 percent, a party polling less than 15 percent in a multi-cornered contest would have got away with a seat in the GHMC Council. “Could you call such a local government representative and our democracy full-blooded?”

“What is more tragic is that the voters have come to view elections as a spectator sport, as a fight among some parties or politicians and have little to do with them. The GHMC electorate has once again underlined the truth in the maxim that bad governments are elected by good people who do not go to the polling booth.

“When voters remain indifferent, parties with no credible and practicable agenda sweep the elections by luring pliable voters with money and liquor and fielding candidates with criminal antecedents, money and muscle power. It is the voters themselves who pay a heavy price for their indifference since their day-to-day living hinges on the type of candidates they elect or choose not to elect. In a local government, people have to depend on their elected representative to address their problems ranging from drinking water and sanitation to street lights and roads. The corporator who gets elected by spending up to Rs.2 crore would be interested in making many times more than his or her investment in the business of politics, and not in resolving people’s problems.”

Dr. JP said the voters should realize no amount of arm-chair criticism of politics and politicians would provide them an iota of relief for the next five years. Politics is the only means by which they can improve their living conditions. By effectively deploying the weapon of vote in their hands, voters can dictate politics and politicians. Instead, they have now conceded the battle even before it has begun to politicians.”

On complaints of names missing in the voters’ lists, Dr. JP said the concerned authorities should be ashamed of the state of affairs. Following a prolonged agitation by the Lok Satta movement, the Election Commission of India had made the post office the nodal agency for registration of voters on a pilot basis in some towns of Andhra Pradesh. Apparently because of shoddy implementation, many voters found their names missing.

On the suggestion that voting be made compulsory with attendant penalties for failure to vote, Dr. JP said that its implementation in a vast country like India is riddled with many problems.

Dr. JP expressed his distress and dismay over the depths to which public discourse has descended in the recent past. Most political parties and politicians did not bat an eyelid in fomenting hatred among people based on caste and religion, region and language. They exhibited no moral compunction in demonizing their opponents by uttering lies and indulging in innuendos.

In this connection, Dr. JP referred to the false propaganda unleashed against the party’s candidate in the Bagh Lingampalli ward to the effect that he was distributing money to voters. The candidate was too poor to afford even normal expenditure. He also took exception to the comment that he violated the Election Code by asking people to exercise their franchise by sending SMSaday before the polling. He said he was ready to face any prosecution on that count. “Should the Lok Satta take lessons from liars and back-stabbers? They are stooping to make baseless allegations against someone who has been in public life without a single blemish simply because he is coming in the way of their opportunistic politics.”

Dr. JP said that politics by definition should be ennobling. Instead, it has been debased to sub-human levels. He would appeal to politicians to refrain from making personal attacks on each other and elevate public discourse by marshaling arguments based on facts, reason and logic. “Let us all work together to restore nobility to the profession of politics and contribute to strengthening democracy.”

Asked how many seats the Lok Satta would win in the GHMC elections, Dr. JP said he was not an astrologer to forecast the results. “Irrespective of the number of seats we win, we will continue to fight for transforming politics. We have miles to go before we can rest.”

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