The onset of a general election witnesses different old and new candidates donning various election manifestoes and symbolic colours. They also don their respective party ideologies (projected as – for the people and the country) within themselves. Sporadic skirmishes are already reported in the states gearing for general elections in the early months of 2022. Dreams are high with the switching of parties – the drama of the day. There is a division here and there due to political ideologies. Two thousand years ago, Jesus predicted that in his name, people would take sides, “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:53). Similar scenarios of division are around us in the process of buying and selling votes.
Who buys votes
Who are buying votes, or rather, who are selling votes? Who affords to purchase the lives of people for the next five years, or rather, who are willing to trade their lives for the next five years with some economic forces? These are some pertinent questions revolving around our minds during election time. Even the educated are ready to side with a candidate because the latter hails from a particular community. Then, what will happen to the voiceless many (poor and illiterate)? In this scenario, who is morally responsible for making the right political choice for the welfare of people? As long as the electorate is willing to sell or ready to be bought for five years, the proper form of governance is a far cry.
Keep the people poor, once in a while, donate money for their welfare and pretend as if you are a big brother or sister. This game is ancient and outdated now. Perhaps, new games have to be invented to perpetuate the dependency of the electorate on the so-called representatives. Depending on a wealthy person(s) or Government is a new form of slavery widely endorsed by the “haves”. On the other hand, people’s educational, socio-economic empowerment will capacitate the electorate to decide their candidate. But keeping the electorate dependent on the legislators perpetuates the possibility of buying votes (people) during elections. The electorate can change this style provided we are not ready to sell their votes just for a few thousand rupees.
Old wine in a new wineskin
The old and bold way of shifting one’s political alliance with another political party is an age-old modus operandi of politics. Senior representatives joining new parties is akin to old wine in a new wineskin. It is just a matter of changing the outer cover and not the essentials. One could term this drama as an opportunity for the future or ‘better late than never’ realization that the previous party was lesser than the one they intend to affiliate with now. In whatever case, the electorate is left wondering at the drama of political shifts, letters of resignation, receptions to new political parties, etc. The pity is that the voters still vote for a candidate and not a political party’s broad ideology. Perhaps, this is because of ignorance or insufficient representation of a political party’s core manifesto. In blunt and straightforward terms, the electorate also swings according to the whims and fancies of their candidates. In this scenario, the power of representative democracy takes the upper hand while representative democracy is still an anathema topic for the electorate.
Representative democracy to participatory democracy
The Indian nation is already a Septuagenarian with a representative type of democracy. Perhaps, participatory democracy is quintessential for twenty-first-century progress led governance. The mere representation of a group of people by a few people is slowly waning. Perchance, citizens need to have the right to make political decisions for their sustainability and inclusive growth. Until and unless the electorate can voice their genuine concerns, the definition of democracy still challenges us. Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to honour the soldiers that sacrificed their lives in order “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Interestingly, many nations have picked up these words to praise democracy as a popular form of governance for their respective states. How far is this articulation of democracy put into practice in word and spirit is another questionable issue.
Clingendael Institute opines, “Democracy is a form of conflict management within states, just as diplomacy is a form of conflict management between states”. These words sound realistic and seem to be in their praxis mode. Is democracy just a means to solve short term problems of the electorate alone – such as funding small community halls, water tanks, roads constructions, gifting some amount to the sick, etc.? Democracy is a long-term vision taking people’s concerns into confidence.
Votes are precious and connected to long-term life projects. We need educated and foresighted candidates to understand the nuances of governance. Short-term goals should be converted to long-term projects. Exclusive ethnic-based politics is not the solution for peaceful coexistence in the multi-cultural society we live in. Let us opt for the right candidates and assert participatory democracy for the coming general election. Never undermind the power of your vote. You can decide your future. Do not blindly surrender your future in the hands of someone who least care about your welfare.
The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Email: [email protected]