Saturday, May 11, 2013

Your vote does not count 2: Internal Party Democracy

[This follows: Your vote does not count.  The related articles are, You did not vote!’, ‘You did not vote!’: Part II]

Republic of India has had valuable experience of nearly sixty years working as a representative parliamentary democracy.  The experiences have shown the strengths of its political system, while clearly exhibiting its weaknesses.  One of the key weaknesses is that Indian political parties do not necessarily follow internal party democracy.  And unless this is legislated and enforced through an external watchdog like Election Commission it can be safely surmised that political parties of India would not implement it voluntarily.  Already a majority of Indians show disenchantment with Indian political system while the faith in the governance is eroding. 

Indian political parties have escaped scrutiny of their inner workings and trappings, thereby undermining Indian democracy.  Indian political parties’ method of selection of candidates and election of its leaders is not transparent, and in fact has all the features of autocratic machinations that are rooted in the very antithesis of a democracy.  These selection methods promote nepotism, sycophancy, promotion of mediocrity, suppression of diverse point of view, unilateralism, apotheosis of certain individuals or families, idolization and veneration of leaders beyond what is considered respectable and reasonable.

The role of political parties in India now stands ambiguous, escaping accountability while getting away with undemocratic methods in choosing the candidates and electing the leaders.  It is generally assumed that ‘primary function of political parties was to link the citizens with the government’ [Sartori].  Yet, a common man in India finds himself disconnected with the government essentially because the political party is acting as the barrier.  Instead of facilitating that link, Indian political parties are monopolizing the access to government denying the common man his participation in the governance of the country.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Your vote does not count

[This follows the previous two articles that I wrote, ‘You did not vote!’, ‘You did not vote!’: Part II]


Once again its election time (in Karnataka) and there is a lot of hoopla from Indian media, Election Commission and various outfits, like ‘Volunteer for Better India’, who are urging people to come out and vote in large numbers.  Times of India, 5 May 2013, writes ‘it’s time to get out and vote’, and has started a campaign called ‘Vote Maadi’.  The Election Commission has set itself a target of achieving 75% turnout (from the previous 65%).


One Kannada Actress writes in Times of India, 6 May 2013: 


Felt like a responsible citizen after casting my vote.  People should vote for better leadership and government, and stop complaining about bad governance.
[Shweta Srivastav, Kannada Actress]


And a film director writes: 

People who haven’t voted have no right to complain about the new government.  In fact, they have missed out on a great opportunity to bring about a change in the administration.
[Kavitha Lankesh, Film Director]


There is a misconception that is being propagated wildly in India that voting in huge numbers will somehow bring good governance.  And therefore the myth, that to be a responsible citizen one has to vote.  I argued in the first two articles that every citizen has a right to criticize the leadership and the government, and that includes those citizens who have not voted.  In fact, democracy cannot be just about elections that come every five years, but it should be seen as a continuous process where the citizen continues to play a role – not limiting it to voting on the election-day.