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Sunday, January 20, 2002

“The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in the government, is to live

under the government of bad men.” Plato

Many of us have heard of numerous stories of wealthy individuals and successful businessmen who appointed trustees, managers and accountants to handle their affairs and a few years later discovered to their dismay that they have become bankrupt and often do not have any chance to recover their misappropriated assets.

Such is the story of our democracy. Our republic has been stolen from us over the years. For a people whose style of management is definitely not by delegation, we very casually delegated the governance of our country to incompetent and insincere politicians. We have forgotten that eternal vigilance is the price of democracy!! Just as things can go wrong in a home or office or business or industry if there is no proper supervision, things can also go wrong in a country if the ‘managers’ are not monitored and held accountable.

Justice Louis Brandeis said, “The most important office in a democracy is the office of citizen”. We have been happily hurling blame on corrupt politicians and inept officers for the problemsfacing ‘we the people’. In a few days we will have to elect our corporators and city Mayor. It is very tempting to sit back and say ‘ I am not very impressed with any of the candidates.’ Or ‘there is very little any elected representative can do under such chaotic conditions. There is no point in wasting my time’. May be things have come to such a pass because we sat back for too long and allowed things to slide. We just to have to remember that in a democracy the ultimate responsibility lies with the citizen. So let us start the reform process now. We shall all make the effort to go and vote – and choose the best of the available candidates. Remember, a party is often a label of convenience to get elected to power. If you have to choose betweena party and a candidate, opt for the better candidate. A bad candidate does only harm, and he may defect anyway. Should you feel ‘there is no way I am going to vote for any for them’, then instead of abstaining you could go and mark an ‘X’ across the ballot paper. By doing so you will be achieving two objectives – you have not only expressed your displeasure about the choice of candidates but also prevented impersonation.

If after all this preparation you find that your vote has already been cast, please establish your identity with an appropriate identification document and seek a tendered ballot. Because of the relentless effort of Lok Satta, the SEC has directed that there shall be a repoll if there are more than 2% tendered votes in any polling booth. Tendered votes are sure proof of impersonation and rigging.

Once elections are over, our job is not done. Maybe it has just begun. Many of the candidates participated in debates and made tall promises. Once elected, they will surely come up with alibis for nonperformance. We should persevere in our endeavours for the implementation of Citizen’s Charters, Right to Information, and creation of Ward Committees. All these are excellent tools for empowering citizens, fighting corruption and improving services. We cannot let one more opportunity pass by. Let us go out and vote.

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