There is. Why? Because persuasion has failed.
Once in five years, a citizen is expected to vote for a new government at the Centre. And he is given a day off to do so. If even after this, he has no sense of obligation to vote, then he should be compelled to vote. The alternative is to deny him citizenship.
Why is the Indian, more so the Middle Class, so indifferent to voting? There is a hoary tradition for this. The Hindus lived under Dharma even before a state was founded by them. They were more concerned with society. And when the state was founded, its main aim was to protect the people, not to run a welfare state.
Be that as it may, it was not for want of a lamp to guide them that the Hindus Middle Class has gone the way it has. The Hindu beliefs did give a firm foundation to live an ethical life. The Vedanta calls for the “welfare of all beings” Vedic scriptures say: “Bahujansukhaya, Bahujanhitaya ca” . A perfect definition for democracy.
Hinduism is not against the accumulation of wealth but only as much as is required. Hinduism did not look down upon sensual pleasures. But it was opposed to hedonism.
The Puranas were really responsible for shaping the culture and values of the Hindus. The Puranas advocated “friendliness towards all that lives” as the highest ideal. And Ashoka believed that his greatest happiness lay in serving the humanity. Thus, the ideals were already there.
But were the Hindus true to their precepts? They were, if not fully. Megasthenes, the Greek envoy to the court of Chandra Gupta Maurya (317-312 BC) has left for us extensive notes on the life of the Hindus.
What did he say? He says: the Hindus had a simple and frugal life. They never drank except at rituals. They seldom resorted to law. They hardly used seal and witnesses. They confined in each other. They left their houses and properties unguarded.
This was highly integrated society, caring for each other. What was more, it was a welfare society, in which people were engaged. It is true that over a period of time rich and poor classes emerged. Buddhism and Jainism broke away from the Hindus.
With the advent of puritanical Islam, there were significant changes. The state and the administration passed into the hands of the invaders. Hindus had hardly any role to play in the state. The Muslims dismantled the welfare society. This went on for eight centuries. The views of the Hindus were hardly sought by the Muslim rulers. An Akbar was an exception.
With the advent of the British, matters began to brighten. But the Hindus were still denied a role in the state. There was no vote. Only after the 1937 general election, the Hindus began to exercise their franchise. But the Congress was the only political party for which the Hindus could vote. And even if some people did not vote, it made no difference.
The Congress continued to be the only umbrella party till recently. But with the decline in the popularity of the Congress, less and less people voted for it. And when regional parties emerged no one took them seriously. They remained casteist parties.
This was the background to the present. With the Congress still in decline, more and more people have ceased to vote for it. There was a growing loss of faith in the Congress. What about alternatives? The only national alternative was the BJP. But it is considered a Hindu party by many Indians, and its association with sadhus and sanyasis had projected it as a backward party by most Indians.
If we are to attract more people to the polling booths, much more has to be done by the BJP. Only when the regional parties lose their attraction will a change in the fortunes of BJP come about.
There is the question which I have not raised in this article. And it has to do with the voting habits of the business community. No study has been done on the subject. Do they go to vote? Or do they skip the election in the belief that it makes no difference to their business whichever party comes to power?