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Compulsory voting : How far is it feasible?

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By Dr. Munish Kumar Raizada

In November last year, Gujarat became the first Indian state to pass a bill making voting in the local body elections compulsory. With O.P. Kohli as the new Governor in office, the Bill managed to get the Governor’s assent in the third attempt. Even though the Bill was passed by Gujarat legislative assembly as early as 2009, Kamla Beniwal had rejected it twice during her tenure as the Governor of Gujarat, drawing sharp reactions from many quarters. Now with elections to as many as 315 local self-governments due in October this year, the state Government is likely to notify this bill (hence, making into a law) just well in time.

A number of experts doubt the constitutional validity of compulsory voting and consider it a violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees personal liberty. On the other hand, the supporters of this legislation point out that people can still have their personal liberty by choosing to vote for NOTA (None of The Above) and rejecting all the candidates. Kapoor Committee – set up by Gujarat state government – did invite suggestions from the public on the magnitude of penalty or punishment for those evading voting. However, we shall have to wait on the exact quantum of punishment as spelled out in the law.

Where else is this provision?

Presently, approximately 26 countries in the world enforce compulsory voting in one way or the other. The major nations among these include Argentina, Brazil, Singapore and Australia. Notwithstanding their national laws which make ‘not voting’ a punishable offence, most of these countries haven’t been able to enforce the punishments effectively. Some of these nations, such as Australia and Brazil, accept valid reasons, such as sickness or non-availability, for skipping to vote. In Brazil, failing to vote would debar you from getting a passport, whereas in Bolivia, you won’t be able to withdraw your salary from the Bank for a period of 3 months, if you fail to vote!

vote-661888_640According to many experts, a considerably low voter turnout in the local elections was the key driving force behind the introduction of this law in Gujarat. Arguing that the local elections don’t arouse much interest in the public, the experts say that a law will help the people make use of their constitutional privilege. Interestingly, it would be incorrect to assume that we are alone in this regard. The 2014 midterm elections in the USA saw the lowest voter turnout in 72 years! Only 36.4% of the eligible voters came out to cast their vote, as compared to the 40.9% turnout in the 2010 midterm elections.

The advocates of compulsory voting argue that as a non-voter, you lose the right to criticize the government and its policies since you didn’t have any part to play in its formation at the first place. On the contrary, rather than remaining a neutral voter, your no-show at the elections effectively converts you into a negative vote. As LK Advani once remarked: “Voters, who without any legitimate justification, have not been exercising the valuable right of franchise the Indian Constitution has conferred on them have, unwittingly thus, been casting a negative vote against all the contesting candidates without intending to do so.”

Is the idea really feasible?

In all probabilities, the Kapoor committee would recommend a nominal fine for the law violators. But taking into account the huge demography of the country, collection of such fines would be a tedious task to say the least. The last thing you would want is to spend more in collecting fines than the amount of fine itself!

Human behaviour forces us to repel anything which is made ‘compulsory’ for us. In Brazil, for instance, where voting is compulsory, a Rhinoceros ‘Cacareco’ won the local elections in 1959 when the people decided to utilize their compulsory voting right to protest against rampant corruption.291914817_0425f7619c_o

Incentivising a positive rather than punishing a negative has always paid rich dividends. For example, during the recent Delhi assembly elections, a number of restaurants, gyms and salons in the capital announced discounts for the customers if they showed their ‘inked finger’. While the real impact of such campaigns in boosting the voting percentage still remains to be deciphered, such ideas surely give food for thought.

The recent years have seen a steady rise in the voter turnout in all elections in the country. This is directly proportional to the rising literacy rate in the country. None would argue against the fact that voter education plays a major role in enhancing the voter turnout. The Election Commission has been organizing several events to raise awareness among the public regarding the significance of their single vote. To push the initiative even further, in 2011, the Government earmarked 25th January as the National Voters’ Day. Many celebrities have also taken up the cause of voter education in the past few years, and their efforts have showed results. Whether the clause of compulsory voting further adds to the rising political conscience of the country or does it backfire on the Government authorities, remains to be seen.

A-MK-150x150The author is a Chicago-based political commentator. This op-ed is an exclusive article in his series Musings from Chicago. You can reach out to him at e-mail ID:pedia333@gmail.com and on Twitter @drMunishRaizada.

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Is Supporting the TRUTH a Crime?

Is this the age of hypocrisy? Yes, it quite seems like. Hypocrisy and double-dealing are what characterize the social and intellectual nuances of present India. Nothing could be so disgusting than the fact that when you speak the truth and follow the truthful people then you are accused of being a follower of Saffron party. ‘Bhakta’, ‘Sangi’ are two terms much going around which are coined by those extra smart class of Indians

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Is it a crime in India now to admire those who really deserve?

By Salil Gewali

Just a few days back I was incisively criticized by one of such smarts – Mr. Sekular. He put forth very weak reasons to undermine my article on PM Modi as if it is outrageous to praise PM Modi’s dedication and activities. My article was intended to bring to the limelight a few of the rare achievements of the present government and how it brought about the overall development in the country and the appreciations PM Modi received from the countries abroad. Is it a crime in India now to admire those who really deserve? Here follow how I rebut that write-up by Mr. Sekular.

  • I am not a follower of any political parties. Nor am I associated with any organizations, so I do not have an allegiance to a specific political party. Nevertheless, I do support, and do not hold back to uphold the truth and do not shy away from admiring those who are genuinely truthful and putting themselves in the service of the nation. The nation belongs to me, my family, my village; and as a result, me, my family, my society, my culture, my language and my identity are inseparable from this land.   Well, even if I am a supporter of the Saffron party of PM Modi, what is the big deal about it? Does one commit a sin by supporting and encouraging persons who truly love the country and who want to do something substantial for the nation?
truth, crime
Why do Mr. Sekular and his kind hold the contrary ideas about the safety and security of this sovereign country?
  • Here my pointed question to that Mr. Sekular is, on the other hand, why does he support those parties and those “forces” whose “integrity” is very doubtful. Why do Mr. Sekular and his kind hold the contrary ideas about the safety and security of this sovereign country? Why do they discreetly, even openly, invite Bangladeshi infiltrators, and thereby put the peaceful Indians to great hardship? On the other hand, don’t they vehemently oppose CAB bill? Why so opposing views, conflicting perspectives?  Well, if trusting and espousing the “truth” and human “values”, and loving the country and its language and its culture will be equated with supporting the saffron party of India then I will never mind even if the whole world calling me as a leader of that party, lol. Why should one deviate from the “pathway of truth” lest somebody would label him as a certain thing or other?

 

  • Please watch out, if the same principle is applied, the leaders and country heads of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Palestine, South Korea, Japan are fast becoming the followers of the saffron party. They all have applauded the activities of the Supreme head of the saffron party – Mr. Narendra Modi and awarded him with the states’ highest honors. What is too disquieting here is that the president of Russia – Mr. Vladimir Putin also has jumped on the bandwagon. His government has recently announced to honor Shri Narendra Modi with the country’s highest award – Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. According to Mr. Sekular, I guess, it is objectionable. Well, barring a few, all world leaders have established the personal relationship with the saffron head.  Is Mr. Sekular aware that Tulsi Gabbard, who is now running for the President of America, is a passionate follower of Narendra Modi? One wonders what Mr. Sekular and his ilk will do if the US Congress’ leaders cry at the top their lungs – “America Mata Jai” in case Ms. Tulsi wins the election in 2020? Her name itself is Indian and so off-putting, isn’t it?
truth, crime
One wonders what Mr. Sekular and his ilk will do if the US Congress’ leaders cry at the top their lungs – “America Mata Jai” in case Ms. Tulsi wins the election in 2020? Her name itself is Indian and so off-putting, isn’t it?
  • Further, I guess, Mr. Sekular must not have completely read my articles and viewpoints, and therefore he is conveniently misinterpreting it to create confusion among other readers. His intention is seemingly not very clear. Almost all my l articles, starting from 1990, frankly speaking, invariably seek to bring about the harmony, peace, and co-existence among all peoples and the welfare of the whole humanity in the world. I personally have never compromised on the misconceived ideas and principles against human values and against the country, nor have I knowingly ever set out to cause a division, hostility, acrimony, hatred, among anyone through my write-ups.  And, despite that, if anyone draws the negative meanings from my writings then I am totally helpless. Of course, people usually understand a subject which is based on their already programmed and conditioned minds. The acquired information and impressions in the past only help them form ideas and conclusion. We usually become victims of wrong propaganda and misinformation and start to believe them as being right. One has to be extra alert in this age of digital media as there are many SECULAR propagandists around.

ALSO READ: First Hindu Temple Lays Foundation Stone in Abu Dhabi

Lastly, Mr. Sekular should note that my two eyes still clearly differentiate between right and wrong, and virtue and evil. Hence, I am deeply suspicious of those intellectuals who glorify “aluminum”, not “gold”, heap praise upon the terror-manufacturing countries, not upon where they have taken birth in, hate the native culture but eulogize and adopt the culture from the far-off lands. We must caution ourselves of these hypocrites who trifle with the country, its ethos, its sanctity and thus mislead the masses with wrong narratives.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali