Voter Registration – Flaws and Remedies

The first phase of polling has come to an end. Times of India and other newspapers carried stories of voters being turned away from the polling booths though they had genuine photo identity cards. The people who could not vote are neither hard-core criminals in prison nor are they aliens from Mars. They are ordinary citizens of this country and yet they were denied their inalienable right to vote. The reason – their name did not figure in the voters list!

The Bihar Verdict – A Cry for a New Beginning

The outcome of the Bihar elections is stunning in its scope as well as in its nature. Once again, the illiterate, long-suffering people rose above caste and religion in search of a better future, and proved the psephologists and pundits wrong. This capacity to transcend narrow loyalties and express the collective will with calm grandeur has been the saving grace of our otherwise flawed democracy. This happened in 1971, when people were fired by hope; in 1977, when they were outraged by the fetters imposed on liberties; and several times thereafter all over the country.

Empowered Local Governments

A large-sized district in India is larger than about eighty (80) nation-states in the world in terms of population. Most of our larger states would be among the large nations of the world. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and West Bengal - each would be the largest nation in Europe if independent. Even a truncated Uttar Pradesh would be the world's sixth largest nation! Given these mind-boggling demographic realities, coupled with unmatched diversity, our centralized, somewhat imperial style of governance is archaic and ineffective.

Democracy and Voter Registration

The world’s largest democracy today is facing a peculiar problem. There is great uncertainty that has come to mark the timing of the elections in India. Everyone including the Election Commission is only talking in terms of probable dates of elections. This uncertainty is not due to the indecision on the part of the party leaders regarding the dissolution of legislatures. Rather, the uncertainty of the timing of elections is because no one in India exactly knows as to when we would have a complete updated electoral list of all the constituencies in the country.

Changing Players – Unchanging Rules of the Game

dir="ltr">With elections over in the four Hindi-speaking states, curtains have been drawn on one great media entertainment for the time being. The media have always treated our elections as a great game. The use of the expression “semifinal” is symbolic. But one thing is certain. There is no ‘semifinal’ or ‘final’ in a democracy. This is a continuing saga which will never attain finality, and history will never end.

Distorted Verdicts and Simple Solutions

dir="ltr">The impending elections to Legislative Assemblies in four major states, the dissolution of AP Assembly and the approaching Lok Sabha elections have significantly increased the political temperature in the country. While there is a natural curiosity about the outcome of these elections, most people’s concern is somewhat superficial. The general feeling is that the choice in most cases is between Tweedledom and Tweedledee, and much of the discussion is to whet our gamblers’ instincts – predicting who will win, and who will lose!

Psephological Pscripts and Pshifts

Predicting election results has become a fascinatingly hazardous business for many.  The latest elections yielded outcomes that none of the opinion polls, exit polls or even the internal party polls had predicted.  Especially the results for the Lok Sabha.  At the end of all this drama and hungama, there are two very interesting and significant points that we should keep in mind.

Revitalizing The State – Need of the Hour

The miasma of elections has enveloped us. In ordinary conversations or talk shows on the TV, the discussions invariably veer around to elections. Indian democracy continues to baffle many. A country with a predominantly illiterate population is going to polls in an electronic format, and about 725,000 indigenous electronic voting machines are in place. And yet we find it difficult to enumerate voters properly!

Fair Fight is no Trite Affair

In a couple of months time, we will witness the launch of the largest sports competition in history:  Summer Olympics 2004.   Within a couple of days, India, herself, will launch the largest electoral competition in human history.  They are the General Elections 2004.

The Case of the Missing TV Ads

Since the run-up to the elections for the five state assemblies four months ago, we have seen the emergence of a variety of colourful political advertisements on the TV.  But recently, the Election Commission (EC) had, very curiously, ordered that paid political advertisements should not be aired on cable and satellite TV channels.

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