Tuesday, November 4

Election fever

It is election day here in the United States, and the excitement is contagious. In a way I am relieved like many others that campaigning is finally over. I don't remember witnessing such long campaigns in any of the Indian elections in the recent past. And unfortunately neither are they as informative as the US campaigns have been.

I said this during an election event at my School and felt guilty that I was criticizing my country's democracy. When in fact I have the utmost respect for it, and the people who helped create it. But it is true that elections in India lack the informed discussion and deliberation that can be seen here. Most of the 'debates' end up being mere political rhetoric and highly abusive too. Not that American politics is devoid of such ills, but there is significant intelligent discussion missing in India. I think of it as an insult to the intelligence of the Indian voters.

Unlike in the US, Indians enjoy discussing politics. Right from the rickshaw-wala to your boss, everyone talks to everyone about politics. Everyone has a opinion. And everyone thinks it is their right and duty to express it. It is only the politicians, the candidates we would actually vote for, who are scared of discussing it. If the candidates were to engage in serious policy discussions with the Indian voters, policy and political accountability would acquire new meaning.

It would be interesting to see Advani discuss real economic policy with Manmohan Singh, instead of the Ram mandir and Ram setu. It would be good to see the marxists parties explaining to people why having fewer industries is good for them, and actually making sense. I am sure I would stop and think before I vote if I know what would really happen, and not just an utopia. The election manifestos do provide information, but how much is practical and implementable. How much is real policy making. We have seen everyone criticise each other's policy, but never putting forth a really thought-out policy that would force me to vote for a particular party. We vote on regional, linguistic, caste lines. How many times do we vote based on policies being proposed?

With the kind of media coverage that elections get, I would expect the same media to force intelligent discussion during elections. And it is very much possible. Elections give the media a new leverage and power, that they lack during normal times. It can destroy a candidate's chances if it wants to. I would like to see the media take a proactive step and demanding real policy discussion from our candidates during the next elections. If we demand it, we will get good candidates. We can force people with real potential to stand for elections and win. We can vote out the many felons that Lok Sabha houses. In a democracy we deserve the government we get, because we vote for it. If we think we deserve better we need to demand the best.

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