PUCL Bulletin, May 2004

The right not to vote

-- By K.G. Kannabiran, – 27 March ‘04

BJP along with its motley collectivity completed their tenure without any interruption, not because they did some extraordinary things for the people, but because there is no effective opposition. BJP being a new entrant to assume governance of this huge country- completing almost the full tenure, by itself made them feel good. Tehelka, Gujarat carnage and Telgi stamp scam are the beacon lights of this shining India. The illusion they and their associates held out before assumption of political reins vanished even as an illusion. Their claim to integrity stood demystified. They had to revive mythological images for campaigning, and the hybrid Rath was structured on a goods carrier with the inevitability of periodical breakdowns. Marx’s axiom that events repeat themselves first as a tragedy and the next time as farce was re enacted. The Rath Yathra to Ayodhya was a tragedy and the repetition now was farcical.

No party has the moral solvency to go to the people and tell them what they are going to do for the people. They have disbanded all the employees dependent on the huge public sector undertakings by converting the value of a going undertaking in to crores worth of equity shares but they forgot to compute the value the workers added to these undertakings. Quite a few thousands whether on account of disinvestments and otherwise thrown out of employment much earlier than what their service conditions assured them. This included every category of employee whether he is in government, quasi government, center or state undertaking, workers in factories, whether regular of under a contract, whether in organized or unorganized sector were sent out whether with or without a golden hand shake. Precisely during this structural reformation was going on financial entrepreneurs sprouted like mushrooms all over the country to mop up the entire terminal benefits received by the employees by organizing gigantic swindles. The genocide in Gujarat and the Telgi scam are just two luminous illustrations of India shining.

Chandra Babu is the wonder Prodigy of the World Bank. He tried to blend left populism with World Bank loans. People oriented profligacy is not permitted by the WB. While he allowed poverty, unemployment, ryot indebtedness famines droughts and farmers’ suicides to grow despite his Janmabhoomi. Velugu, Deepak, projects initiated to light up the poor peoples lives this government is trying to compensate it by converting the entire state into an amusement park and a tourist resort to entertain tired foreign executives and their Indian counter parts. We are going to have golf tracks covering miles and miles and roads with seven-lane traffic We are also going to have a Formula One racing track we really fit into the World Bank definition of “Developed Country”. All these are going to be achieved by large scale eviction of the poor, hordes of unemployed, able bodied labour force and the total abrogation of the value system so elaborately set out in Preamble and the Directives of the Constitution.

In this sorry state of affairs elections are unleashed on the poor, as usual, left to choose their representatives not with freedom, but under duress and deceit from the parliamentary non-left parties. This election comes after the realization and recognition by our Apex court that the act of voting is the exercise of fundamental right of free speech and has therefore some importance. This untrammeled exercise of free speech by millions in the country has consequences hitherto never even thought about. Part of this right is the information about the parties their members and the history of both. These entitlements of the voter allows for the growth of an elaborate infra structure to furnish all the relevant information about the party, their politics, their reputation about their attitude to minorities, dalits, and women, the history of their role in the politics and governance of the country as also about the candidate, his criminal activities, his/her criminal proclivities, inventoried or otherwise and their conduct such as violence and misbehavior against women, Dalits and Minorities.

This was not possible before the recognition of voting right as part of free speech. This recognition has facilitated informed participation in the governance of the country. Informed participation requires the increase in the level of understanding of the people of their representatives and their governance. While ideological and policy campaigning may be the exclusive business of the party concerned, the credibility of the members and its credentials as a political party and its nominees as a representative of the people is no longer outside the purview of public scrutiny. What was considered as personal has become political. The divide between personal and political is getting diminished.

This right to vote includes a right not to vote. It also recognizes the concept of the negative vote canvassed by late Krishna Kant, the then Vice President of the Country. This right implies the concept of recall of an elected member. Open campaigning for policies and programme of political parties and broadcasting the history of the candidate and his party should be allowed to go on without any hurdle or hindrance. These cannot be interdicted by violence by candidates and their party having a bad history sheet, nor should CPI-ML (PW) by acts of violence against members of the two-targeted parties. coerce voters to refrain from voting. Such coercion can never yield the expected result and may very often turn out to be counter productive, as is likely to be the case in the recent killing in Paderu in Vizag Dt. When terror flows through the barrel of a gun it may inform the people at large that the Party and its cadre are not confident that these targeted parties can be defeated by democratic processes that is the only message terror can give whether it flows through the barrel of government’s gun or the revolutionary gun.


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