With everyone going gaga over participating in democracy, which apparently means voting, I think it is time to raise my hand and say loud and clear [Tweet "I'm not voting and it is my right."]
And before you panic, here are my answers to the top five angry objections to my stand.
It is a citizen's duty to vote.
No, it isn't. It is the state's duty to present every citizen the opportunity to vote, if s/he wish to exert their RIGHT to vote.
This, astonishingly comes the most from political parties. In fact, a few years ago, when I didn't know better and naively attended a Friends of BJP event about being "apolitical", I heard Meenakshi Lekhi actually claim that people who don't vote aren't even citizens. I was so appalled, I met her after the programme to confirm that she said it, and she repeated it. Other variations include "shouldn't be considered citizens", "shouldn't expect anything from the government" and "voting must be compulsory".
The appalling ignorance coming from people highly involved in politics convinces me that it is either a malicious invention or ignorance that mandates that they must not be elected, because voting is not my duty, it is my right. I can exert it how I wish within the limits of the law, and there is no law making voting mandatory (thank God, we are at least a democracy on this still).
It is my RIGHT to vote or not as per my will, and any politician who is not aware of this should not contest elections. It is one of the few rights that are uniformly available to all citizens, and I'm not going to keep quiet as politicians attempt to appropriate it to their whim.
Politicians need to get off their pompous self-goals to realize that voting is not the sole contribution of a citizen to his country. Everything from paying taxes to filing PILs and protesting to taking a stand on not voting is a citizen's way of shaping his or her country. The simple act of spending money to survive contributes to the country's large market that the government is renting like an asset for foreign investors. And the citizen is not actually required to do anything to be a citizen. S/He either is or isn't till s/he gives it up or dies. It is one thing to believe that citizens should express their preferences more and quite another to demand that they jump through hoops to prove own legitimacy or right to identity.
You cannot end corruption if honest citizens don't vote
This shows utter ignorance of human psychology. Other variations include "you can't prevent fascists from coming to power if you don't vote" and "you can't prevent the corrupt socialists from reducing India to poverty if you don't vote". This is plain bullshit.
Neither human rights abuse nor corruption are traits of a political party. They are human traits that humans agree not to act on as a part of living in a collective. Other such traits would be lying, cheating, stealing and so on. If political parties get away with communal violence or they get away with corruption or these things are institutionalized, that to my mind symbolizes a weakness of the structure rather than a party specifically. Are some parties willing to do wrong more than others? Sure, but I still believe it is a law enforcement issue, and there is no way around the hard way - not tolerating it and keeping rejecting it so strongly, that parties have to clean up their act to survive. ALL parties. No matter which party comes to power and where, corruption or communal violence must be illegal anyway.
You can't say, oh BJP is in power, so we will let riots happen or oh, Congress is in power so we will let scams happen. Get that straight.
Bad politicians come to power because you don't vote for good ones
More bullshit. Most of the country never voted for Raja. Most of the country never voted for Sharad Pawar. We have a Prime Minister who has never won an election. No matter which politician you name, most of the country never voted for him because one politician cannot contest from all over the country, but will bear the results of his actions. Bad politicians come to power because they have hoarded enough power that they cannot be set aside (or they are trusted by such people).
So me voting CANNOT result in a clean Parliament. It is plain nonsense told to people to encourage them to vote, so politicians don't feel like no one turned up for their gig.
In my view, if people have lost trust in politicians so much that they can't be bothered to vote, such a government turning rotten will at least be discredited easier by large mobs of protesters than a government where misguided people voted even though they didn't really like anyone.
You have to choose the lesser evil and defeat the greater evil
I don't have to choose ANY evil. I don't believe my country deserves evil in power. The debate over whether you ate a bowlful of dung or a plateful does not excite me. I'd prefer to not eat dung.
Because honest people don't vote, corrupt politicians buy votes
I find this one the most laughable. Other variation are minorities and dalits vote as communities, middle class voting would bring BJP to power, etc. Basically, stuff that sounds profound and as if you know a great deal about other communities, which will not stand cursory examination.
Even going by Justice Katju's measure and considering the country overwhelmingly stupid, it doesn't take a great deal of cleverness to realize that no one really knows who you voted for and you can have your bottle of whiskey and vote your wish too. Which is probably why elections are wisely by secret ballot. So community leaders telling people in some Friday or Sunday congregation that they must vote for someone is really bullshit. Community leaders have advised for far more years - centuries, actually to not fornicate and tell lies and such. Look how effective that is. And the idea that only influential figures in minorities tell people who to vote for is either brainwash or such horrendous lack of intelligence that it would probably implode under the stress of work if it got elected.
I don't for a minute believe that it is possible to buy votes enough to change an election result. Sure, that won't stop politicians from *trying* to buy votes. But whoever imagines that the person suffering first hand from the results of misgovernance will give up the easy opportunity to "fix" it for a bottle of booze they have already drunk is clearly ignorant of how the human mind works.
Lastly, I'd like to explain why I don't want to vote. The reason is actually quite obvious. I haven't found a party that actually offers much beyond "we'll do our job", which is my expectation from all parties anyway. I'm hardly going to vote for one party and then if it loses be ok with the one I didn't vote for being dishonest. So it doesn't seem to me a factor to vote for.
For example, if a party offered copyright reform, which is something other parties don't and it isn't a requirement from their jobs or something people are demanding enmasse. Then that party is actually attempting to shape the country in some way. I'd vote. If they lost, I'd know I can't expect that from the other party.
Is it wrong for parties to offer to fix basic problems? No. But I am not suffering from basic problems. I go broke, but that isn't the government's fault. I have a home, I have electricity and water enough that I can store for when it isn't there. I have my bicycle and petrol prices don't matter much. There isn't any burning issue that *I* need fixed.
In contrast, I know a whole lot of people fighting for life and death issues in this country. If it has to come down to parties fighting for votes on the basis of promising to do their jobs and be honest and such, I'd rather the most power of choice went to people fighting for survival and that they got the governments that would give them the best chance.
I am not so arrogant as to believe they are too stupid to know what will help them. I am not going to sit and analyze parties and predict their impact on other people whom I consider too stupid to know what is good for them. I am going to leave it to the wearer to know where the shoe pinches. This is something that terrifies the political salesmen, because there is no way to explain away a pinch to the one being pinched, while anyone can be sold a pretty shoe with some dazzle.
So what I am choosing to do with my vote is to abdicate it so that it doesn't interfere with those using theirs to express desperate needs.
"Do you realize you are agreeing to accept whichever party others choose for you?" a furious reader had asked.
Yes. I understand. I accept.
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