Dr Pravin Togadia
WORLD’S most populated democracy Bharat is now the world’s most evolved democracy. Voting turnout at most elections in Bharat show it clearly. Recent State elections show an upwardly trend in voter turnout with decisive minds. Goa: 81 per cent, Himachal Pradesh: 75 per cent, Gujarat: 78 per cent, Uttarakhand: 70 per cent. Even Uttar Pradesh voted high this time with 60 per cent. Uttarakhand had rains and landslides going on during polls. Himachal had snow. Yet voters came out and exercised their right to express their choice.
The world has to envy because the countries who claim to be the leaders of democratic movements have lost their momentum. In America the presidential elections of 2012 had 59.5 per cent voter turnout which was 9 per cent lower than the earlier year and 0.1 per cent lower than America’s very first election in 1828 when it was 59.6 per cent. America had seen as high as 81.8 per cent voter turnout in 1876 and as low as 48.9 per cent in 1924. But the observation is that after 1924 American voter turnout has not picked up much to reach the earlier levels.
UK is not much different. 2012 general elections voter turnout was 65.1 per cent. In 1945 elections it was 72.8 per cent and their highest was 83.9 per cent in 1950. Japan went in for elections in 2012 and their voter turnout was the lowest at 59.32 per cent, the post war lowest turnout of voters was criticised there even by the media and the social analysts.
Coming back to Bharat, our general elections in 1952 – the very first – saw voter turnout of 61.16 per cent. Next election of that was 63.75 per cent and so far it is the highest for general elections. It reached somewhat that level only in 1998 which was 62.04 per cent. But in 2004 it was 57.75 per cent and in 2009 it was 58.19 per cent.
Since after 2009, especially from 2011, many NGOs, independent social activists, Election Commission and media have been doing specific appeals and efforts to get common people vote. The cynicism that had set in because of trust deficit about political leaders may not have seen much change but common public has started to come out and vote. State elections show this trend.
Election Commission has taken concrete steps to make voter registration easy, accessible for common people and less tedious form-filling. EC also has started distributing ‘Photo Slips’ at voters’ homes. This enabled those to go out and vote who were otherwise could not vote for want of any ID proof.
Youth voter’s percentage has generally increased with 56 per cent and this is the section of the society that is now vigilant, alert and active on the socio-political arena. This is good sign as their enthusiasm brings new energy to the otherwise dull political scenario marred by corruption, greed and power-mongering. Youth has their own mind today and they are well-informed. They have their opinions and they do not get much impressed either with media’s blah blah or with leaders’ hollow promises.
They know what they want and they also know how to get there. Yes, sometimes there could be a possibility of them getting misled by the similar age vested interests but in general, the youth insists on exercising their right to choose – not only in their attire or food or academics but also in politics. This has directly reflected in the increased voter turnout.
Central government has specifically made special arrangements for para-military and police forces as well as government employees who get busy in election duties and cannot spare time for voting. They are given a special day and place to vote earlier so that even their vote is not missed out. Even though their number may look small per State but when it comes to throat cut competition every vote matters.
While America and many European nations have been seeing the low voter turnouts, this time France saw the highest voter turnout at 80 per cent. The political analysts credit it to the changed demographics. Over the years France gave asylum to many people from many countries especially from African countries and some Asian ones. People who came from there got settled there with their different religion and different ideology. Their 3rd generation youth now is quite vociferous – much beyond the control of France government as well. The erstwhile French President Nicolas Sarkozy banned veil in pubic and this high percentage active generation of the earlier migrants voted against him.
In Assam, Keral, Andhra, Maharashtra, J&K , Uttar Pradesh, etc we have been noticing this fast change in demographics reflecting directly on the voting patterns and even affecting victories. Assam now has over 11 constituencies totally under control of Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators. So much so, in many states from towns to villages and cities to lanes, there are big areas which are dominated by specific religious groups who have specifically increased their population so as to control Bharat’s democratic systems. This has been making leaders to create specific policies and favours for them mostly hurting majority Hindus. But the problem is that Hindus do not vote as ‘one’. As long as Hindus do not vote as
‘one’ beyond caste, language, region, sect etc, the Muslim vote bank that votes as ‘one’ will always overpower voting percentage as well as results. This even has got erstwhile Hindu leaders dilute their ideology and in some places abandon it totally and yet win because of the changed demographics. It is a silent killer of the original democratic values of Bharat, which only a few leaders have been able to maintain and still win.
Which party wins and which one loses is an electoral mathematics much dependent on the local issues these days. Common man does not much benefit from such wins or does not lose anything more than he has already lost from the losses either. But we must celebrate the fact that Bharat’s democracy is now the most evolved democracy with high voter turnout. Now it is up to the social and political leadership to channelize this high energy into nation building.
(The writer can be contact: [email protected])