Indian voters – spoilt for choice?
With 8071 candidates contesting 543 seats – that’s an average of 15 candidates for each seat — the 400 million Indian voters who chose to vote sure looked spoilt for choice.
But were they?
Though democracy means choosing who our rulers are going to be, many say there is a crucial missing link in Indian democracy — the lack of inner-party democracy.
Rahul Gandhi says he is trying to make reforms.
At a recent press conference, commenting on his position within the ruling Congress party he said, “It is undemocratic and it is a reality.”
“The Indian political system tends to be related to who you know, who your brother is, who your sister is, and it’s in every single party, in the BJP it exists, in the Congress it exists, that’s a fact of life, that’s the reflection of a closed system.”
Policies are rarely formed after debates involving the party cadres and tested through their votes.
Guessing and second guessing why people booted out a candidate or rooted for another remains the default option for making sense of electoral verdicts.
Political scientist Ashutosh Varshney writes that the lack of internal party democracy leads to a fractured polity, as no leader of a new group can hope to capture an existing party in an open contest.
The weekly ‘Tehelka’ reported 10 billion dollars being secretly spent by politicians to woo voters.
In the absence of a culture of volunteerism, which cannot take off until people are involved in electoral campaigns as in the United States, some say the importance of money bags and black money can only go up.
Critics say all of these tendencies — fractured polity, unstable coalitions, promiscuous alliance hopping, muddy electoral verdict, horse trading of legislators — will most probably be on show in the next few days as the process of government formation gathers steam.
Voters generally get to choose from a field of candidates who are selected by the party bosses.
Pending this crucial democratic reform, did the election process represent a real choice by the voters? Or was it an expensive illusion?