Compulsory Voting: Going Bareback With The Drawbacks

Posted on September 17, 2010 in Society

By Shruthi Venukumar:

Every time the word compulsory is mouthed before me, it spells great urgency! The picture of a sword hanging over the head is what comes to my mind in a flash. From the compulsory December Saturday extra classes back in school to compulsory dress codes to be followed to the Tee (pun intended), compulsion has always been the source of repulsion in me. And now, for some local bodies, compulsory voting! So it does not come as a surprise when a certain Narendra Modi making convinced claims of a majority win in the State Assembly polls with compulsory voting strapped onto the people elicits wariness in me instead of the expected warm rooting. While the former scenario involved an investment into my future, the latter may point to a rigged one. In widespread parts of the world penetrated by the hold of democracy, compulsory voting is hailed as the only true form of bringing to the fore true public opinion. It is not a hogwash playing out under the viewpoint of “the more the merrier” but a philosophy that relies on “the greatest good of the greatest numbers”. In these neo-cradles of civilization, abstinence from voting, except due to certain conditions of health etc., can invite punishments of fines, prison term or community service. If Modi has his way and whims, Gujarat could see a sea change to the aforementioned system. But will all be hunky dory under such a system?

With over 1.2 billion gracing the terrains, some in areas impenetrable to the twines of governance and law but under the tentacles of gun-toting so-called “socialists”, Indian sovereign territory is not the best practicing grounds for the phenomenon of compulsory voting. A political star-gazer’s astronomical charts could very well predict phenomenal failures. For one, the countries whose long-going practice has been used as the framework for the on-going debate on compulsory voting are ones which offer social security where citizens have means to the basic means of living as sponsored by the State. Back home, while we do have Directive Principles of State Policy added to the Constitution to make bare necessities within the reach of the downtrodden, the non-justiciable nature of these renders them paper tigers, ending up as thinly-veiled excuses in the hands of the State to deprive the unfortunate citing poor finances of the nation. In more than 63 years since independence, the DPSPs have not found a moneyed enforceable place in our Constitution, playing a game of carrot and sticks with the poor. In such a situation, using votes as a trade off for bare minimum necessities (shrouded behind the lure of cash) will gain a strong foothold if voting is made compulsory. Even if the bankrupt are made outside the ambit of polling purposes, we must remember that the numbers of poverty are understated in this country thus paving the way for corrupt elements to lure, threaten and arm-twist the chunk of the underprivileged into voting precariously. The risk of a good-intentioned law turning into an ill-bearing one will be magnified as those willing to place a null vote or being found voting contrary to a particular party or ideology might be threatened with unlawful consequences. A misuse of the laws punishing wasted votes can mean bullying voters into casting premeditated ballots. If the ruler in power happens to be a rogue with a rouge-painted purported image, the whole machinery of democracy can come to an abrupt standstill with the rampancy of practices mentioned above. Theoretically, the roguish nature of such states will snatch misplaced legitimacy relying on the gargantuan numbers polled in their favour. The paint is still fresh on the memories of an era where open rigging of entire polling booths was a usual yet turned-a-blind-eye-to sight. Not memorable memories those! If compulsory voting is voted in, it may not take a long while for life to come a full circle.

Another uncomfortable feature of the Indian vote base is illiteracy. Voting for correct policies can only be expected of people if they are in the know of the political scenario. In a nation where certain tribals still owe loyalty to a certain political party because of their legendary belief that Indira Gandhi is alive and sending them rice at Rs.3 per kilogram at the time this is being written, compulsory voting can only show skewed results. A ballot paper is not only a question paper for the candidates but an answer sheet wherein citizens register their astute observations on the government that ruled over them for the previous five seasons. It is based on these answers that the next government makes its assessment of the intellectual faculties and no-nonsense attitude of the people it governs and it is ultimately this assessment that sets the limits of the government’s reins.

Like a majority of India’s problems, the cited problems can find absolution in free all-India education and financial independence. Universal adult franchise is but the butter on the toast of universal education.

Youth Ki Awaaz

India's largest platform for young people to express themselves on critical issues - making best use of new media and online journalism.

Submit Your Story

Comments

You must be logged in to comment.

If you sign up with Google, Twitter or Facebook, we’ll automatically import your bio which you will be able to edit/change after logging in. Also, we’ll never post to Twitter or Facebook without your permission. We take privacy very seriously. For more info, please see Terms.

Similar Posts

#StartTheChange

Submit your story