Why does a person vote? There are two main reasons – to exercise his right as a voter and to make his choice of candidate win. In India, most voters go to the polling stations after a gap of five years, to exercise the right of a citizen. Most of them do not know their candidates. If they know the candidates’ names, they may not have heard them speaking, let alone doing any work. The percentage of people going to vote for a candidate, who he really thinks can bring good to the society and not to himself and his family alone, is very negligible. The figure is almost nil in some interior places where candidates can lure voters by bearing just the ‘travel expense’ to polling stations. The scene is Meghalaya where six districts are going to autonomous district council polls on February 24 is no better.
Dorbar Shnongs (traditional village bodies) in the state are known for their open support to political parties and candidates of the choice of a handful. Less than a dozen people in the Dorbar dictate terms to a village of several hundred families as to whom to vote. There are even instances of banning entry of candidates and supporters other than a particular one to villages. If these people abide by their Dorbar Shnongs, the candidate need not bother about working for the people. He has to satisfy just the few people in the Dorbar.
The election commission has also done precious little on bringing awareness about unbiased voting. Of its estimated spending of Rs 3,500 crore in the coming Lok Sabha election, a large part is being spent on bringing voter awareness. Although casting the vote is important in a democracy, what’s more important is to ensure that more and more people vote without any bias. We hardly come across any election commission campaign asking people to vote for a ‘good’ candidate. People need to be told as to why it is important to elect good and honest people as representatives. The voter turnout would jump once people are aware about the need to send good persons to the Houses.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 22, 2014)