Mar 04, 2024
Mar 04, 2024
The Gujarat government announced it would enact a new law by which it will become compulsory for citizens to vote in elections. Initially the law would be applicable only to local elections. As Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had initiated the move to make this law. The former Governor of Gujarat had shot down the idea but it has been revived under the new Governor. Earlier Mr. Modi had justified his decision by stating that many foreign nations had also made such a law. Just because foreign nations have this law does not necessarily make it suitable for India. He said that people should be compelled to discharge their democratic duty and spending half an hour once in five years is not asking too much from them.
Clearly the intention is that after the law is successfully implemented at the local level it will extend to even the general election. After implementing it in Gujarat it will be enacted throughout the nation now that Mr. Modi is Prime Minister. It is a very questionable move. It is neither desirable nor practical. It is undesirable because it vitiates the spirit of democracy and most likely is even unconstitutional because it denies citizens freedom of choice. The government may argue that the new option in the ballot of None Of The Above (NOTA) for voters provides all choices to voters. It does not. Even if a citizen is against the democratic system and refuses to cast his vote but acts only within all laws democracy allows him to do so. Most media comment has rightly criticized the intended law for being undemocratic by introducing coercion in what should be free choice. Only effective political discourse should persuade citizens to vote.
However even more serious is the impracticability of the intended law. It is astonishing that an efficient administrator like Mr. Modi should have failed to see this. There are over 80 crore voters in India. Compulsory voting implies non-voters would be punished. Even if 5 to 10 crore voters fail to exercise their franchise are they all to be imprisoned? If they are fined will penalties be levied and collected from crores of voters? If someone is sick and unable to vote will he or she be made to provide a medical certificate to avoid punishment? It is a wholly impractical law and deserves to be scrapped. According to media speculation the Gujarat government is developing second thoughts and may indeed scrap the idea. The sooner the better!
The lesson to be learnt from this fiasco is for Mr. Modi to recognize that everything foreign and approved by other nations is not necessarily good for India. Indians must learn to think for themselves.
More by : Dr. Rajinder Puri
|On the other line of thoughts - why such a law will actually not help:
(Except those who may face real challenge to be present in their cities and villages due to unavoidable personal reasons...)
Those who do not vote are not serious about selection of the government, or how else will anyone not go to booth to cast a vote if he/she understands the importance of it !
If someone is not serious about the kind of government he/she wants, then certainly he/she has not put adequate efforts to select a suitable choice. In such a case, if he/she is forced to vote, such a vote will be from a casual reaction and often come up with a improper and inferior choice.
If 30 to 40% people do not vote and they are forced to vote, then there will be these many 'casual' votes.
Even with 5% voting swing one side, the governments change. Imagine what kind of swing these 'casual' votes will bring that form 30-40% of total voters !!
This will change style of campaign and most likely it will give birth to new challenges.
Apart from right to vote, objective of elections is also to get better alternative get to the power to ensure a better government. All efforts should be made to enable people meet this objective and not the other way round.