S P E C I A L  E D I T O R I A L

People must assert
Time to cleanse the system
by H.K. Dua

The Election Commission has placed the nation in an election mode allowing the people to use the most sacred right they enjoy under the Constitution — the right to elect a new Lok Sabha and a government for the next five years.

The ball is now in the people’s court and it is they who will be held responsible if they exercise their right flippantly and elect rulers of the wrong kind.

The nation — placed as it is at a crucial juncture — will have to pay a heavy price if the voters trek to the polling booth and cast their vote without much thought.

A wise decision, on the other hand, will mean a better future for the voters themselves and their children. It could mean better governance and greater accountability of the rulers to the electors.

During the last 56 years, India has made a tremendous progress in different spheres. There are, however, vast areas where rulers’ indifference, incompetence and callousness have left unhealed wounds. Short-sighted as many of them have been, they have preferred personal or partisan ends to public interest.

The result has been decline in the quality of democracy and governance promised in the Constitution.

Generalisations can be wrong at times, but over the years the democratic system has been infiltrated into by the self-server, the criminal and the corrupt and this has helped parasites to grow at the cost of the people.

The time has come for the voters to use their franchise to cleanse the system of such people:

They can, if they want to.

They can do this in two ways: One is to simply throw out those who have been irresponsible or negligent in their duties as Members of Parliament or of the Assemblies. The other is to elect those who have a clean image and can be true representatives of the people.

Between now and April 20, voters across the land will be subjected to a lot of promises and propaganda by all parties and in the constituencies, inducements and threats would also be used to swing the verdict in favour of a particular candidate or a party.

The voter has to resist both fear as well as favour to elect the rulers of the right kind.

The Election Commission has duly prescribed a Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates. Let’s hope the Code of Conduct is observed.

But the voters themselves have to ensure that they do their own duty. They can at least do a few specific things during the next few weeks to elect a better Parliament.

They can do the following:

* Closely question the political parties and candidates who make bloated claims of their performance or tall promises. The rule of thumb is that the greater the hyperbole, the higher the level of insincerity.

* Ask the outgoing MP, who is seeking to come back looking for another term, how many sittings he attended and participated in the debates and what kind of issues he raised in the House. He could also be asked how he spent the Rs 2 crore as development fund he drew from the national exchequer during his term.

* Shut the door on the criminal, or the political party which supports him.

Everyone in a constituency knows the local dada and the crook who has lately displayed marked tendency to use both money and muscle to get into the legislature. Just say, ‘No’.

There could be instances where the local tough will use fear, possibly force. But it is worth resisting it, even if a price is to be paid.

* Also shut the door on the corrupt whose accumulation of wealth is often known to the voters of a constituency. The corrupt are likely to offer inducements to voters; these would necessarily have to be resisted.

In most cases the candidates can do no harm to the voter who is firm in saying ‘No’. But telling your neighbour and others in the mohalla or the street to stand up against the criminal and the corrupt can evolve into a voters’ movement against them.

Such a local constituency-level movement could strike a fear among the criminal and the corrupt and among the political parties who dare to prop them up.

If the people have to ensure that they remain the masters of the nation’s destiny, the elections offer an excellent opportunity to frustrate the efforts of those who are keen to hijack the system for their ends.

The people’s will must assert.

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