Monday, April 7, 2014

Democracy depends on informed consent...

Now a days it is election time in India, very charged atmosphere with political emotions flying very high. All political parties (and there are so many of them in India) are trying their best to woo (or trap or fool choose whatever term you like) voters so that they vote for them. India is considered as largest democracy in the world with population of around 1.2 billion people. Politics and democracy are two different things according to me. Politics is played in almost every country, but there are very few places where true, healthy and well functioning democracy exists, the question here is, is India one of them?

True democracy doesn't only mean right to vote, this is just one part of it (no doubt very important part). True, healthy and really functioning democracy depends on informed consent of people involved in entire democratic process. The process includes candidate selection by political parties, policy development, voting, governing, etc. All eligible citizens should be able to participate in every step directly or indirectly. There are very few countries in this world which have such a robust and transparent democratic process in place. India is democratic country for sure, citizens have right to vote but most voters have very limited information or knowledge about policies of political parties or even about candidates contesting from their constituencies. This information is deliberately not provided to them. Until recently there was no right to information act (RTI), even now political parties and their funding sources are not completely revealed under this act, they don't even come under this act. Most political leaders prefer to deliver emotionally charged speeches rather than talking about their actual road map which will allow them to achieve promises they are making. There is no culture of debate or discussion between major political parties or their candidates which can allow voters to understand what they really stand for. People with serious criminal charges (like murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.) are given ticket by almost all political parties. All these political parties unite whenever there is an attempt to bring any reform or act which can minimize criminalization of politics or dilute their power in any way. These things normally happen in background, most voters/citizens are not even aware about these things and most political parties (including manor national ones) don't want voters to know about this political nexus between them. On political stage they appear as fierce rivals to fool people but there is lot going on backstage than one can see. More ignorant and ill informed voters are, more better for these political parties.

Because of tremendous development in information and technology in recent years and presence of active media, now a days people are receiving lot of information from various sources. There is so much information out there that now a days it's really difficult to grasp all of it. Along with very useful information there is lot of junk also, people need to filter it and educate themselves about real issues and problems. Once voters get informed they realize real power of their vote, they get empowered. Without information and awareness votes of voters can be purchased or voters can be fooled by creating some wrong picture, making false promises which no party even bothers to fulfill once they come into power. All these things are happening in India for last so many decades. People are really frustrated and disillusioned with this system. This is the major reason for all the support which inexperienced party like AAP (AAm Aadami Party) is getting. These things are happening during this general election also, but slowly things are changing. The change is slow, it will take time but I think it's coming. I hope it doesn't lose its momentum because many political parties are not happy with this change. They all want the same old system in place, same old style opaque politics as it is very beneficial to them. People who are trying to bring these changes are targeted, actually these people are not at all that important but the message or reforms which they want to deliver is most important. Some people are trying to shoot the messenger in hope that message doesn't get delivered. I hope voters of India look beyond personalities and try to understand the message. Who is delivering the message is not at all important, the message is important. If major national parties like Congress and BJP are willing to decentralize power, bring strong legislation against corruption, bring total transparency and accountability in governance, encourage job growth then there won't be any need for any anti-corruption movement or any new party. Whenever establishment neglects certain section of society, corruption and crime becomes rampant in society, some new movement starts, some new political party is formed to fight against this injustice.

Informed voters are more powerful, they are aware of their rights and responsibilities. Informed voters are equipped to make informed choices, political parties and leaders can not fool them all the time by giving false promises. Democracy is not very useful for its citizens without well informed voters. I hope this scenario changes in near future. I hope candidates and their supporters learn how to conduct and participate in civilized debate, these type of debates are very necessary and are essential part of any democratic process. India never had them so far as a part of electoral process I hope in future they learn to conduct them. After all democracy depends on informed consent and without that it's just a democracy for the namesake. I think most of us want true and functioning democracy not something which just looks like it but doesn't feel like it. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

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