we take fair Olympics for granted, we seem to settle for
something less than fair when it comes to the Indian elections.
Fair means for selecting a medallist but foul ways for electing
me elaborate: our country is one of the most open and mature
democracies in the entire world. Our elections, in general,
successfully reflect the overall public opinion. This should
be a matter of pride for all Indians. At the same time,
our electoral system suffers from serious systemic shortcomings
that cry out for urgent reforms. For example: there are
innumerable instances when strong candidates and even stronger
governments were rejected by the voters. However, while
we are capable of rejecting unsuitable entities, or punishing
aurogant governments we seem to be incapable of electing
suitable persons to office.
with the first general election of 1952, we have now reached
a stage where honest, motivated and hardworking individuals,
in spite of being capable in every sense, do not stand any
reasonable chance of winning a state or parliamentary election
on their own. Here is a litmus test: are you able to read
this newspaper and comprehend its contents? Then, it is
near certain that a candidate of your liking will not win
in the coming elections. More likely is that a person of
your liking will not even contest the election, in the first
place. And why is that? The answer lies in the peculiar
choice of our electoral system and how previous generations
of Indians have framed the rules of that game.
has chosen the 'First-Past-The-Post' (FPTP) electoral scheme,
mostly as a matter of convenience in following the British
democratic traditions. Under this scheme, a candidate with
the highest number of votes in a constituency is chosen
to represent the people of that constituency, in the state
or national legislature(s). This is the first drawback of
FPTP: the entire concept of winning an electoral mandate
is artificially abridged to obtaining a minimum of one vote
more than the nearest rival - at the level of a constituency.
If it takes divisive caste politics or muscle power or vote-buying,
so be it. The only thing that matters to politicians is
getting that one extra vote.
decent, capable and honest candidates from normal family
backgrounds and with no access to huge funds do decide to
contest elections, they face a huge disadvantage. This is
another key drawback with the FPTP: extensive public support
to 'clean' candidates across a large region or even an entire
state does not count. Their 'winnability' in a constituency
is very low because votes cast to a candidate other than
the winner are simply worthless under the FPTP. That is
why locally entrenched politicians with family/caste, money
and criminal connections keep getting elected from their
'home' constituencies - irrespective of their overall competency
Olympics are symbolized by five interwoven circles apparently
representing the spirit of unity between the five continents.
May be, the Indian Elections too can have the five linked
circles as their symbol. Only that they represent the five
vicious cycles of corruption, criminalization, voting fraud,
selling of votes and caste/divisive impulses that seem to
intermesh so nicely with one another and script our politics.
a large part of the blame goes to our electoral system,
which has degenerated into a highly unfair competitive selection
processes. Today, we have almost exhausted the efficacy
of our purely FPTP electoral system - it no longer captures
the voters' burning desire to elect only deserving candidates.
No wonder, only ten democracies in the entire world - all
former British colonies - have been following this FPTP
system for reasonable length of time. Instead, our elections
should permit a fair fight between candidates and should
make it easier for deserving candidates to win. Until now,
even if the voters supported good candidates, be it across
large regions, it carried no electoral significance. Recognition
and genuine representation of such voters' choices is a
key to rectifying our electoral system.