Why India Needs Prime Ministerial Debates In This Election

Posted on March 28, 2014 in Politics

By Vinay Nagashetti:

How can India claim to be unified in diversity when all that people from one side know about those on the other side is a bunch of stereotypes? This thought has crossed my mind several times.

pm debatesIndia’s biggest honour (without any real efforts) is that it is the world’s largest democracy. With 1.2 billion people (which is a lot of people), it forms the biggest voting population in the world. For the first time, over 150 million young voters are eligible to vote in the 16th Lok Sabha elections. To put that figure into perspective, only eight of the total 243 nations in the world have a population above 150 million. This biggest democracy is gigantic. In order to form an ideal democracy, it is absolutely necessary that there should be constant dialogue and debate between the faction without resorting to antagonise and besmirch the opposition. Every major election in the democratic world has seen election debates. These are not the chaotic dissensions that qualify as debates on the media channels. These are debates for the heads of the State, and are treated in exactly the same manner.

Prime Minister debates should be mandatory for every election cycle. A candidate cannot simply come to ask for votes and expect the voters to trust him/her without letting them have a comparative analysis of all sides of the ideology options that they are provided with. The candidate is going to run the nation and voters would naturally want to know his/her stand on a variety of issues. It should be a dignified debate worthy of the stature of the Prime Minister of the biggest democracy.

The most important factor of these debates is that it should never lose its decorum. The moderators in the current formats of media debates are more of instigators than interviewers. In a debate of such magnitude, the focus should be on the content and not on creating TRP crazed dramas. These should be minimal moderation debates where the facilitator acts only as a time keeper and intermediary. The audience should only be observers and inquirers, and they shouldn’t even be allowed to applaud without the moderator’s permission.

This debate should take place in Arunachal Pradesh or Nagaland or Chennai or a part of the nation which is not so much in news. This will lead to cultural exchange throughout India. It will also lead to economic development of such areas. Of course it should have live coverage and should be an uninterrupted discourse.

Democracy should be celebrated and democratic values should be instilled in the citizens like religion. Law, constitution and civic obedience must be taught as schools. Not just the rights but also the duties need to be addressed. With the talks of a shift towards bringing decentralized policies which would empower the citizens directly, it is of utmost importance that the citizens are familiar with their powers and responsibilities.

This period of political activeness amongst the citizens is the right time for such a debate.