Some serious questions on voting

I have written in another article that the elections themselves lay the grounds for corruption, misuse of power and squandering resources in power struggles for survival. So I admit that I am not particularly fond of the method as a means of ensuring democratic representation.

Now, it seems Team Anna attempts to fix problems arising from this very structure through the means of installing an ombudsman, which seems to me a good idea, unless we are able to drastically change our parameters for elections, or we are able to move away from a system of elections completely (as described in that article).

There are those who suggest more responsible and more quantity of voting as a means to get better politicians. And it is some very thinking minds making this suggestion. This seems very illogical to me, but I am willing to give it a go, if some fundamental problems I see are addressed by this system in ways I don’t see at the moment. Listing them out. I would appreciate inputs from anyone who has given this serious thought. This is not about Team Anna, but the viability of the proposed alternative as voting.

  • There are many issues handled badly by political parties. Fundamental, legal, constitutional. Is it realistic to expect voting to fix them? Issues that are handled or mishandled differently by different parties, but actually a basic requirement from all.
  • If there are issues that are not acceptable from any party, why should votes be spent on them than on real preferences in values? Elections ought to be a way of representing National opinion on how the country should be run – “legally” should not have to be a factor for choice when it is a basic requirement from all. “Honestly” also ought not to be left as a matter of vote.
  • If there are two candidates, one I like the ideals of, but belonging to a corrupt party and another honest but not too useful, whom to choose? Should I have to sacrifice ideas like… say “better roads in my locality” because it adds power to a party which will exploit my country?
  • Why is a legislation that will police politicians wrong, if it is fine for normal citizens? A regular citizen stealing money from any organization would be behind bars, then why does the Supreme Court have to intervene and overrule the natural actions of the system to even investigate what is happening?
  • I had no role in bringing a politician in another place to power – A Raja or Kalmadi, for example, but his loot impacts my well being as well as that of every citizen in my country. How can voting alone protect the country from this, if there is no real power to any entity to monitor or check without permissions from those who are most unlikely to give it, and beyond likely to tip off the suspects rather than aid investigation?
  • No matter how scrupulously people vote for honest politicians, by virtue of size and experience, big parties will have power. It is probability. These big parties all have leaderships, stakeholders and hierarchies that often don’t even contest elections – let alone be elected into power. The actions and influences of these people directly impact the country, and there is no way short of disempowering all big parties through elections to prevent this.
  • In the unlikely event that big political parties are completely left out of stakes, the combined nuisance potential they have will bring down any government.
  • In the unlikely event that big political parties are completely left out of stakes, we also lose out on years of experience of administrating the country and have leaders with relatively less experience, influence and knowledge of the system – a weaker government in terms of capability.
  • But really, it comes down to the basics – is five years a reasonable wait to challenge the power of exploiters of the system in a hit or miss process?

All thoughts welcome. I don’t think people recommending voting haven’t thought of this. So I am looking to find the value and solutions that are visible to them and elusive to me.

Lokpal or not, these things must have solutions, no? What can it be?

Join the Intellectual Anarchy!

Vidyut

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

10 thoughts on “Some serious questions on voting

  1. I think the only sensible alternative to our current system is to introduce a few changes in the laws:
    1. Govt. funding for elections
    2.Nobody with ongoing cases for murder, rape, misappropriation etc can stand for elections
    3.Have a RIGHT TO RECALL  clause, so people can recall their elected reps.
    4. Make a stronger Anti-defection law.
    5. Ban caste based speeches, electioneering.
    6. Election commission to publish report cards on all electd officials on what they have done for the constituency and the number of days they have attended parliament etc.
    7. Make MP?MLA remuneration dependant on attendance
    8. Make law against ANY member disrupting parliament/Vidhan Sabha to be automatically disbarred for 30 days, effecting their revenue.
    9.Withdraw all discretionary quotas and funds for MPs/MLAs etc.
    10 use public pressure on parties to refuse tickets to criminals.

  2. I think the only sensible alternative to our current system is to introduce a few changes in the laws:
    1. Govt. funding for elections
    2.Nobody with ongoing cases for murder, rape, misappropriation etc can stand for elections
    3.Have a RIGHT TO RECALL  clause, so people can recall their elected reps.
    4. Make a stronger Anti-defection law.
    5. Ban caste based speeches, electioneering.
    6. Election commission to publish report cards on all electd officials on what they have done for the constituency and the number of days they have attended parliament etc.
    7. Make MP?MLA remuneration dependant on attendance
    8. Make law against ANY member disrupting parliament/Vidhan Sabha to be automatically disbarred for 30 days, effecting their revenue.
    9.Withdraw all discretionary quotas and funds for MPs/MLAs etc.
    10 use public pressure on parties to refuse tickets to criminals.

  3. I will start with the caveat that there is no perfect system of governance democratic Westminster style or U S Presidential style, much less dictatorial or monarchical. Perhaps in that context it devolves around the individuals running the various arms of governance – legislative, constitutional and administration.
    In India political parties many are either dynastically without much inner party  democracy, or are purely regional in character in ethos so they do not have a national image or a dream.
    So long as we have regional parties only interested in their own regions, national issues like the Anna Hazare agitation is more a question of opportunity and electoral gains.  For the rest it is a question of losing present privileges and protection against wrong doing. Personal probity is not something that legislatures would want.
    We need massive legislative (including policing the politicians) and administrative reforms (police and law order and general admin) to implement what has been suggested where the role of regional parties is limited in national politics and where they do not hold the rest of the country to ransom. Are we prepared to carry out these reforms? It is doubtful.   
    There has been a reluctance among politicians to carry out any police reforms that dilutes their hold, patronage and ability to manipulate.
    It is true voting will not prevent the rise of certain kinds of politicians or those with criminal backgrounds. Elimination of these through some kind of verifications and qualifications may be one way but again not a perfect method.
    Bigger parties have bigger stakes and bigger backers – corporate, private and media.
    In this context while the individual has the right to vote he has no right to recall a candidate. Maybe if this is done at least at some level the politician will be accountable. Whether or not this is workable or acceptable is another matter

  4. I will start with the caveat that there is no perfect system of governance democratic Westminster style or U S Presidential style, much less dictatorial or monarchical. Perhaps in that context it devolves around the individuals running the various arms of governance – legislative, constitutional and administration.
    In India political parties many are either dynastically without much inner party  democracy, or are purely regional in character in ethos so they do not have a national image or a dream.
    So long as we have regional parties only interested in their own regions, national issues like the Anna Hazare agitation is more a question of opportunity and electoral gains.  For the rest it is a question of losing present privileges and protection against wrong doing. Personal probity is not something that legislatures would want.
    We need massive legislative (including policing the politicians) and administrative reforms (police and law order and general admin) to implement what has been suggested where the role of regional parties is limited in national politics and where they do not hold the rest of the country to ransom. Are we prepared to carry out these reforms? It is doubtful.   
    There has been a reluctance among politicians to carry out any police reforms that dilutes their hold, patronage and ability to manipulate.
    It is true voting will not prevent the rise of certain kinds of politicians or those with criminal backgrounds. Elimination of these through some kind of verifications and qualifications may be one way but again not a perfect method.
    Bigger parties have bigger stakes and bigger backers – corporate, private and media.
    In this context while the individual has the right to vote he has no right to recall a candidate. Maybe if this is done at least at some level the politician will be accountable. Whether or not this is workable or acceptable is another matter

  5. The basic template of Parliamentary democracy in which candidates are chosen through voting is fine, I think. What the system lacks is stronger accountability, and punishment for crime, corruption, incompetence, bias etc. Our lawmakers have been very kind to themselves and kept the redressal system largely inaccessible, slow, prohibitive, frustrating. The punishment is mild if it ever arrives.

  6. The basic template of Parliamentary democracy in which candidates are chosen through voting is fine, I think. What the system lacks is stronger accountability, and punishment for crime, corruption, incompetence, bias etc. Our lawmakers have been very kind to themselves and kept the redressal system largely inaccessible, slow, prohibitive, frustrating. The punishment is mild if it ever arrives.

  7. Very nice. I share almost the same sentiments with you on this subject. Let me attempt some solutions to the problem of voting. They may not correspond directly to points you have mentioned, but suggest how to make the people’s choice more effective and meaningful:

    1. Any elected person (MP, MLA, whatever) should be immediately evicted if convicted of a crime while in office. Isn’t it ridiculous that some people who are supposed to be elected representatives of the peole are lying in jail? It is an insult to the people of that constituency.

    2. Now, the problem is, when an elected person is accused of an offence, more often than not, the cases take years to solve, if they ever get solved. Here, the judiciary has to step up. In the case of an elected person being involved in a case, resolve in the case with utmost priority in 3 months, at most 6 months.

    3. What about those who have been convicted of crimed earlier, and try to run for elections? Based on the severity and number of the past crimes, disallow the candidate from going for elections. I say this because petty crimes can be overlooked. While ruling a judgment, the judge should mention which category the crime of the accused falls in, and whether he/she should be disallowed from going from elections henceforth. Some may say our elected representatives should be spotless, why even allow petty crimes, I’d say it’s atleast better than what happens now.

    4. What about those who have not been convicted yet, but have several pending cases and want to run for elections. Make them file a request to the court, get their cases in a special priority category. Get the cases resolved in a given timeframe (3-6 months), all of them, only then they should be allowed to run for elections.

    All these things are not unachievable. The Election Commission is a respectable body and can enforce these with help from the judiciary. It helps the citizens get better choice of candidates, and motivation to vote for the right one.

    5. Now about performance of the elected representatives. Corporatize the government. Make the representatives accountable. How? We need transparency. An autonomous body, like the EC, should review and score the performance of each MLA on a quarterly basis. How many funds did he/she get for the development of the constituency? How many were used? What is the development index of the place (condition of roads, education, law and order, etc.). Well, one bad score doesn’t make him a bad representative. But 4 consecutive ones do. If that happens, remove the representative, get by-elections done. The cost of by-elections would definitely be less than the lost opportunities and wastage of resources a bad representative would have caused.

    For all the above to happen, yes, I am assuming that people who are in charge of keeping a tab on the elected persons (judiciary, EC, etc.) will act responsibly, but in today’s times, we never know 😐

  8. Very nice. I share almost the same sentiments with you on this subject. Let me attempt some solutions to the problem of voting. They may not correspond directly to points you have mentioned, but suggest how to make the people’s choice more effective and meaningful:

    1. Any elected person (MP, MLA, whatever) should be immediately evicted if convicted of a crime while in office. Isn’t it ridiculous that some people who are supposed to be elected representatives of the peole are lying in jail? It is an insult to the people of that constituency.

    2. Now, the problem is, when an elected person is accused of an offence, more often than not, the cases take years to solve, if they ever get solved. Here, the judiciary has to step up. In the case of an elected person being involved in a case, resolve in the case with utmost priority in 3 months, at most 6 months.

    3. What about those who have been convicted of crimed earlier, and try to run for elections? Based on the severity and number of the past crimes, disallow the candidate from going for elections. I say this because petty crimes can be overlooked. While ruling a judgment, the judge should mention which category the crime of the accused falls in, and whether he/she should be disallowed from going from elections henceforth. Some may say our elected representatives should be spotless, why even allow petty crimes, I’d say it’s atleast better than what happens now.

    4. What about those who have not been convicted yet, but have several pending cases and want to run for elections. Make them file a request to the court, get their cases in a special priority category. Get the cases resolved in a given timeframe (3-6 months), all of them, only then they should be allowed to run for elections.

    All these things are not unachievable. The Election Commission is a respectable body and can enforce these with help from the judiciary. It helps the citizens get better choice of candidates, and motivation to vote for the right one.

    5. Now about performance of the elected representatives. Corporatize the government. Make the representatives accountable. How? We need transparency. An autonomous body, like the EC, should review and score the performance of each MLA on a quarterly basis. How many funds did he/she get for the development of the constituency? How many were used? What is the development index of the place (condition of roads, education, law and order, etc.). Well, one bad score doesn’t make him a bad representative. But 4 consecutive ones do. If that happens, remove the representative, get by-elections done. The cost of by-elections would definitely be less than the lost opportunities and wastage of resources a bad representative would have caused.

    For all the above to happen, yes, I am assuming that people who are in charge of keeping a tab on the elected persons (judiciary, EC, etc.) will act responsibly, but in today’s times, we never know 😐

  9. Interesting post.  Some random thoughts, jotted down as I read it…

    – – – – –

    Is the yardstick right for the measurement being made?

    When I was in high school, the son of a famous professor wiggled his way into medical college despite scoring very low marks in the qualifying exam.  Many of us were outraged.  My grandpa gave me a different perspective.

    “When he qualifies as a doctor, this man will be able to return more to society faster – because he’ll leverage on the existing base his father built.  How about a brilliant student without such backing?”

    At the time, it angered me further.  Looking back 3 decades later, it seems there’s a point to that argument.  A difficult one to accept, true.  But valid nonetheless.

    The bigger question, of course, is:  Are marks in a qualifying exam really the best yardstick to assess future potential as a doctor?

    The answer, honestly, cannot be an unqualified ‘Yes’.  So much more goes into the making of a doctor (or any other profession or career) than just marks on a high school paper.

    – – – – –

    Is backing a wrong strategy an error – or a crime?

    Japan decided to give away 3G licenses to telecom providers.  They bet that the growth of mobile based technology thanks to deeper penetration would more than make up for the license fees.

    India adopted the opposite strategy – and chose to auction spectrum to the highest bidder.

    Discretion was used (and probably abused) to favor certain companies over others – based on whatever logic and rationale was considered by the powers that be.

    In the opinion of noted historian Martin Gilbert, history should be written at least 80 years later – and not soon after the event – in order to be fair, unbiased and analytical about context.

    What if it turns out, 50 years later, that the telecom revolution that brought India to the status of foremost nation in the world hinged upon such selective distribution of licenses?

    Or what if the opposite happened – and we lost our pre-eminence as a nation because of a faulty decision?

    Ultimately, it’s a question of backing a specific strategy.  Whether it turns out to be a winning strategy, or a losing one, is a function of judgment, discretion and even chance.

    Error – or crime?  Genius – or luck?

    – – – – – –

    Is the end a justification of the means?

    Teleological ethics is clear about the acceptability of a mode of action in order to achieve noble goals and end-points.

    Such debate is anathema to deontologists who swear by the rule book and obsess over mindless obedience to the guidelines – consequences be damned.

    “If we go to hell in a hand-basket, I’m still ‘right’ – because I followed the rules!”

    Sure.  But who won? 

    There’s so much ‘gray’ in our universe that our childish desire to see it in black and white terms is as futile as it is pitiful.

    A vote every 5 years is a process citizens of this democracy use to opine on the happenings since the last election.  Collective wisdom *should* bring the best qualified leaders to the fore – and they *should* then fulfill their promise to the electorate.

    Nothing is said about whether they should be guided by teleologic or deontologic ethics in such decisions.

    On what framework would we judge them?  Especially at more frequent intervals than every 5 years?!

    – – – – – –

    Handled – or mishandled?

    Legally – or not?

    Honestly – or through deceit?

    Local interests – or national?

    These will always be matters of personal choice.

    The guiding principle of ‘voting’ as a solution probably stems from the “wisdom of the crowds” philosophy – that if enough individuals join hands to opine collectively, what shakes out in the end will be the closest to an “ideal solution”.

    But will it always work?

    🙂
     

  10. Interesting post.  Some random thoughts, jotted down as I read it…

    – – – – –

    Is the yardstick right for the measurement being made?

    When I was in high school, the son of a famous professor wiggled his way into medical college despite scoring very low marks in the qualifying exam.  Many of us were outraged.  My grandpa gave me a different perspective.

    “When he qualifies as a doctor, this man will be able to return more to society faster – because he’ll leverage on the existing base his father built.  How about a brilliant student without such backing?”

    At the time, it angered me further.  Looking back 3 decades later, it seems there’s a point to that argument.  A difficult one to accept, true.  But valid nonetheless.

    The bigger question, of course, is:  Are marks in a qualifying exam really the best yardstick to assess future potential as a doctor?

    The answer, honestly, cannot be an unqualified ‘Yes’.  So much more goes into the making of a doctor (or any other profession or career) than just marks on a high school paper.

    – – – – –

    Is backing a wrong strategy an error – or a crime?

    Japan decided to give away 3G licenses to telecom providers.  They bet that the growth of mobile based technology thanks to deeper penetration would more than make up for the license fees.

    India adopted the opposite strategy – and chose to auction spectrum to the highest bidder.

    Discretion was used (and probably abused) to favor certain companies over others – based on whatever logic and rationale was considered by the powers that be.

    In the opinion of noted historian Martin Gilbert, history should be written at least 80 years later – and not soon after the event – in order to be fair, unbiased and analytical about context.

    What if it turns out, 50 years later, that the telecom revolution that brought India to the status of foremost nation in the world hinged upon such selective distribution of licenses?

    Or what if the opposite happened – and we lost our pre-eminence as a nation because of a faulty decision?

    Ultimately, it’s a question of backing a specific strategy.  Whether it turns out to be a winning strategy, or a losing one, is a function of judgment, discretion and even chance.

    Error – or crime?  Genius – or luck?

    – – – – – –

    Is the end a justification of the means?

    Teleological ethics is clear about the acceptability of a mode of action in order to achieve noble goals and end-points.

    Such debate is anathema to deontologists who swear by the rule book and obsess over mindless obedience to the guidelines – consequences be damned.

    “If we go to hell in a hand-basket, I’m still ‘right’ – because I followed the rules!”

    Sure.  But who won? 

    There’s so much ‘gray’ in our universe that our childish desire to see it in black and white terms is as futile as it is pitiful.

    A vote every 5 years is a process citizens of this democracy use to opine on the happenings since the last election.  Collective wisdom *should* bring the best qualified leaders to the fore – and they *should* then fulfill their promise to the electorate.

    Nothing is said about whether they should be guided by teleologic or deontologic ethics in such decisions.

    On what framework would we judge them?  Especially at more frequent intervals than every 5 years?!

    – – – – – –

    Handled – or mishandled?

    Legally – or not?

    Honestly – or through deceit?

    Local interests – or national?

    These will always be matters of personal choice.

    The guiding principle of ‘voting’ as a solution probably stems from the “wisdom of the crowds” philosophy – that if enough individuals join hands to opine collectively, what shakes out in the end will be the closest to an “ideal solution”.

    But will it always work?

    🙂
     

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