Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One Single Vote!... that's India's Democracy is all about!

Most of us, born and brought up in the Independent India, take the "democracy" as a part and parcel of living. In fact, there are some, I know of, who even crib that we have "too much of democracy"... (though, I am not sure what that exactly means, since democracy - the right to voice your choice - is either/or; it is not a matter of degree...)

But the fact that India remained a democratic country - the largest democracy, in fact - is something of a wonder/miracle. The only post-colonial country that could maintain this record in the world...

...Back then, there were many who always remained sceptical about India's will to remain a democratic country. In 1960s, Selig Harrison, an American scholor-journalist had predicted:

"The odds are wholly against suvival of freedom and ... the issue is, in fact, whether the Indian state can survive at all."

India did!

In 1967, The Time carried out a series of articles entitled "India's Disintegrating Democracy" authored by one Neville Maxwell. A quote:

"The great experiment of developing India within a democratic framework has failed."

And yet, the India, as a democratic country, almost 4 decades on, has trudged along... Perhaps not very efficiently. But in spite of all its complexities, failures (and successes), ups-and-downs. After all it was a democratic process in 1977, that ended a dictatorial era of the "Emergency", - and it was the same process that enabled a party, which got 2 seats in parliament in 1985, to form a government in mid-90s, and then get replaced by the "original incumbent" in 2004...

All these instance are a homage to the spirit of a people...

Often, what gets missed in the mind-space of the common man (and the educated intelligentia and the middle-class) is the logistical nightmare that goes into keeping the country "democratic".

The last national elections in 2004:

  • 675mn eligible voters (er.. that was 10%+ of global population)

  • more than 5000 candidates

  • 40+ political parties + more than 1000 "independent" candidates
    (there were so many "Independent" candidates that the Election Commission ran out of the 128 symbols - those tiny line-drawings of everything from apples, to lanterns, to bangles, boats, pillows, combs, bananas, and computers... - in a country largely populated by people who can't read and write, the "election symbol" - a picture - is the only mode of making a choice)

  • around 850,000 polling booths
    (that spread across more that 640,000 villages, including the 35 in Andaman-Nicobar Islands that spread across some 600 sq miles)

    But this was also the 1st National Election, anywhere in the world, that was

  • at a scale that is staggering - effectively, it was the vote of 10% of global population exercing their enfanchise!!

  • directly representative (not though electoral votes), and

  • done on indeginously electronic voting machines (and without any controversy, unlike the Diebold)

    In its typical modern-primitive ways, this is how the Electronic Voting Machines were transported to different polling booths across the sub-continent:

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    But perhaps, the greatest insight I ever got about why and how Indian Democracy survived (and will continue to do so) was this small news item that I picked up from a local newspaper... I scanned it, and cherish it:

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    We live in a critical time in history, when the "indigenous" democracy is getting usurped/arm-twisted by the "exported" one..

    But nevertheless...

    A Very Happy Independence Day to All!!!


    Prometheus_Unbound said...


    On Independence Day away from India, all I have been doing is scan the TV and Google News for any breaking news- A bomb blast somewhere or another terrorist attack. Needless to say, I did not make the effort to go to the 8:45 am High Commission flag hoisting ceremony.

    Your post really made my day. If only we had a bit more hope and confidence in ourselves.


    Kaushal said...


    An apt article for an apt moment. Your post surely shows that there is a deeper sense and meaning to the word democracy.

    A small fact about our rights in Democratic India

    Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969 act, in section "49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn't want to vote for anyone!

    Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly notorious leaders have never disclosed it. this is called 49-O...

    Why should you go and say "i vote for nobody"? ... because, in a ward, if a candidate wins, say by xxx votes, and that particular ward has received 49-O votes more than xxx, then that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled.
    Not only that, but the candidature of the contestants will be removed and he cannot contest the re-polling, since people had already expressed their decision on him.

    This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for election.

    This would change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly surprising why, and election commission has not revealed this feature to the public ....

    Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India ... show your power, expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful than voting... so don't miss your chance.

    So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote 49-O).

    sabunair mangalasserril said...

    Dear sir,

    Truly inspiring words indeed but Im sceptical..the rulers at delhi keep taking all kinds of absurd decisions day after day and its dragging india to some kind of redundance....


    Chander Dogra said...

    Well i do hope we end up becoming a successful democracy, were the goverment actually becomes answerable. Nice to see a positive blog on the nation ..

    A_N_Nanda said...

    A nice post. Despite everything, Democracy continues. Sometimes one may be led to think: Democracy by default. Alternatives are cumbersome.

    I just wandered into your blog in one of my blog promotion forage. My search word was "Andaman and Nicobar Islands".

    The Andamans is a place where one is sure to get one's moments of quietude amidst its breathtaking sceneries. I've the experience of staying at Port Blair for almost three years between 1995-1998 and that was the time I really enjoyed away from the hustles and bustles of the mainland.

    That was not all; I've also written a Short story book, wholly devoted to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Mr RUSKIN BOND has written foreword for it.

    Please visit my site http://remixoforchid.blogspot.com to know more about my effort and comment on it.


    Stacy said...

    India is a country that needs a lot of development yet, besides that its inhabitants buy viagra ... But democracy at some point must give results