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Layers of Democracy

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India with Her billion plus people is the largest democracy in the world. We have elections at various levels – village panchayat, zila parishad, block level, then state and finally, the national level elections. Unfortunately, many people have one yardstick for all of them and elect the same party for everything. But the issues and their scope is different at every level and one cannot have the same yardstick for all these elections. In fact, the strength of democracy is that every sphere can tackle its own issues autonomously. On the contrary, when the priorities at these levels mix, chaos reigns. Regional parties who try to play a national role create havoc and more hurdles for good governance because their vision remains limited. I would suggest people to clearly see the various issues facing the country at various levels.

At the village and taluka level, voters should focus not on the party but the capability of the locality’s candidate and his/her connectedness with the people. For the national level, the perspective should be to look for strong leadership at the top. State level requires a balanced approach. In all these cases, the character and conduct of a person plays is very important, although at the national level, if the choice is between the national party and a candidate of good character, the party should be given more preference. At the same time, I appeal to all political parties not to give tickets to people with a criminal background. They do this because such people have a vote bank. Therefore, we must have a vote bank of good people as well.

To have the maximum youth participate in this election, we launched a drive to register new voters in several places. I asked our enthusiastic volunteers to do a Happiness Survey and find out how many people have voter IDs. We were shocked to find out that in the slums of Delhi, many people had more than one voter ID. They can vote in Delhi and then go back and vote in their native constituency in other states. This seems to go with vested political interest. The audacity with which a well known politician has openly asked people to erase the voting mark on their fingers and go back to vote again is alarming. It is time the public wakes up and shows the door to this kind of unethical and corrupt elements.

People also tend to vote out of a blind sense of loyalty in this country – “My grandfather and father voted for a party, I will also vote for them.” Blind faith in parties should be done away with. We must choose based on the situation of the country rather than on past political affiliations of the family. The current situation is such that in terms of economy and industrial growth, the country is on a ventilator. The extent of corruption has breached all limits and a weak coalition government is the root of corruption. The need of the hour is a strong and stable government at the center that can boost the economy.

There is also an impulse to get swayed by emotions in making a choice, especially in the youth. Often people with good intentions end up making wrong decisions because their vision gets clouded by emotions. The situation of an intelligent voter today is similar to that of Arjuna. He was overwhelmed by feelings and unable to see clearly. Lord Krishna told him to set aside his emotions and fulfill his dharma in the interest of greater good. Our dharma as citizens in the upcoming national election is to make a choice for a firm, decisive and experienced leadership at the top that leads the country on a path of progress and prosperity.

I urge people to take responsibility to ensure that everybody among their friends and family cast their vote this time and vote wisely. Let voting be like a picnic celebration where the whole family or a group of families goes together without being daunted by the weather or the traffic. Let us do this as our sacred duty. This election is like an examination for all of us but I’m sure that after passing through this phase, our country will truly blossom.

[Note: This article was published in Times of India on April 7, 2014:]


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