Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Republic Day, fellow Indians - some thoughts

Wishing all my fellow Indians a very Happy Republic Day. Doing so, in advance, as I will be travelling, & thus, will have a patchy Internet connection for the next few days. Enjoy your almost mid-week holiday, Dry Day even if it may be ;).

We celebrate Republic Day each year, in honour of India's Constitution, one of the largest & most comprehensive in the world. Provisions in the Constitution enshrine equality & non-discrimination to opportunities of progress & empowerment, irrespective of ones caste, creed, religion or other such classification. Yet, very often, in India we see political parties seeking to further their political fortunes by gaming the Constitution, even attempting to subvert it, in their bid to pander to specific sections of the society, to bolster their standing among their captive vote-bank, practicing ghetto politics. Such retrograde practices goes against the very grain of our country's Constitution.

First Republic Day parade of India at Rajpath

Yet the electoral system in the country is such that divisive practices, as evident in the ongoing campaigning for elections in U.P., often pay rich dividends, voting politicians to power, even if they do not enjoy majority mandate. Thus if a politician garners only 10%1, or less, of the people's votes, then he/she can still be declared winner, if the remaining candidates, large in number, garner less than 10% of people's votes.

In order to ensure win, therefore, all such politician has to do is pander to the population who could make up this 10% of vote & at the same time covertly support/hoist candidates who would spilt the opposition's vote-bank, by espousing ideologies similar to theirs, misleading voter into voting for the hoisted candidate, & thereby denying the opposition chance to garner more than 10% vote.

Effective electoral process, IMHO, should demand that only those candidate who garner more than half or two-thirds of the votes be allowed to take part in the Legislative process. Only such candidates, who enjoy mandate from the majority, could genuinely be termed as representatives of the masses. Such candidate could be elected by holding a second or more round of election, if the first round fails to produce such outcome. In the second round, only those top few [2-3, or as deemed appropriate] candidates who garnered votes in the first, would be allowed to contest & their outcome could then be decided. Such a process would effectively render counter-productive, the dirty brand of ghetto vote-bank politics being witnessed in India. The founding fathers of our country & those who formulated our Constitution certainly did not believe in such divisive, venal practices seen today.

Republic-Day-India-Raj-Path-New-Delhi Republic-Day-India-Rashtrapati-Bahvan-New-Delhi

While politicians can't be blamed enough for the ills afflicting the country, we, the citizens of the country too can't escape our fair share of blame. Many amongst us, educated & symbolizing the, urban, aspirational Indian middle-class, while cribbing endlessly about the political cesspool, fail to execute even the most basic of our responsibilities as required of us as citizens of the Republic of India - that of going out to vote on election day. This was glaringly evident during the 2009 General Elections where, in South Mumbai, an address of the upwardly mobile, and a city that had just been the scene of widespread terrorist attack from Pakistan, registered one of the poorest voting percentage. One would have assumed that people's anger towards the government of that day, for failing in their duty to protect the lives of Indian citizens, would have made them come out en-mass to vote the government out of power.

Yet, no such thing happened &, subsequently, the same party & the same set of politicians were voted back to power by those that vote [again, mostly captive vote-bank of the party that won], including the minister who was in-charge of internal security of the state the day the terrorists struck. Today, he occupies the same ministry he held the day of the attack. It is not uncommon for families to take advantage of the holiday, provided to enable you to go out & vote, to instead, go for a picnic.

Republic-Day-India-MiG-21-Indian-Air-Force-IAF Republic-Day-India-Hawker-Hunter-Indian-Air-Force

While we do not bother to execute our duties & dispense with out primary responsibilities of voting, we resort to equally unconstitutional methods to express our dissatisfaction with our politicians. Thus we find ourselves rooting for self-appointed vanguards of Indian interests, holding a legally elected governments to ransom, as shown by the recent Anna Hazare fracas, thereby setting up a dangerous precedent for anarchic, free-for-all muscle-flexing. All you have to do to make the government capitulate is fill up a ground for a few days, ensuring that the weather that month is pleasant. If they were so confident that they had the mass support of the people, why did they not contest any elections and then, once in power, execute their rightful authority to legislating laws they were demanding. The country has some of the finest rules & regulations in places to address issues facing the citizens. It is the duty of each and every citizen of the country to strive for ensuring these laws are respected and the Constitution upheld. Else, with people doing what they think is right for the country, paying no heed to any laws in place, we run the risk to turning India into a lawless country. Prediction dire & extreme, but possibility not remote.

Rabindranath Tagore filmed reciting the National Anthem of India


1 - 10% is a hypothetical, theoretically valid figure

images courtesy: P.I.B, Photo Division