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Voters queue up outside a polling booth. Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times
Voters queue up outside a polling booth. Photo by Arvind Yadav/ Hindustan Times

Opinion: Grill netas before you cast your vote this election

A little effort on our side can make our leaders responsible and accountable

This year, we will have the general elections and this means a huge responsibility on our shoulders. As voters of the largest democracy of the world, we have to decide who we will choose to hand over the responsibility for our country for the next five years. Besides, we also have to determine whether we will be influenced by our leaders during the elections or we ourselves will influence them.

My grandfather was a freedom fighter. He often used to tell us that we have got freedom as our birthright. We should understand its value. Our forefathers have made great sacrifices for this freedom. Today, looking back when I recall the things he said to me about five decades ago, I realise how right he was. Indians have always taken pride in the fact that we are the world’s largest democracy. Thwarting the doubts of leaders such as Winston Churchill, we have succeeded in preserving and maintaining this unique system of governance. With a suicidal self-indulgence the examples of our neighbours are cited, where the tenure of the ruling government is determined by the military junta.

To shy away from reality is an old vice of ours. If democracy is just a political system, we have succeeded in sustaining it for seven decades. But this is only one dimension of the truth. Now, look at the dark aspect of this reality. Our leaders in power did not pay the required attention to the model of development which they should have followed for the betterment of people. And this is the reason that at present when the world is dreaming of and planning human colonies on the Moon and Mars, about 70 million Indians are struggling for their daily bread. The reason? In our country, the elections are not contested on the basis of our leaders’ performance report. They are fought using a bunch of attractive jumlas.

This is why, in the beginning of this column, I asked you—will you be influenced by the upcoming elections or will you influence it? Will you get taken in by some kind of frenzy or hysteria? Or, will you ask your representative leaders how much they have done of what they promised five years ago? And believe me, only this single question by you can give a new dimension to our democracy.

It is comforting to know that Indian voters have started asking this question.

A glance at the results of the elections in five states recently shows that people have supported whom they wanted to and taught a lesson those they thought deserved it. Let’s start with Telangana. K. Chandrashekar Rao had played a significant role in the formation of the state. That’s why the people of the state rewarded him with power. Chandrababu Naidu was against the division of Andhra Pradesh and as a result he was defeated in Telangana. This time Naidu had formed an alliance with the Congress and challenged KCR’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi. The public once again rejected him. By approving the old struggle by KCR and his work in the state during his tenure as chief minister, the people of Telangana have proved that only a coalition cannot be the key to power. KCR had contested elections with his performance report and future strategy. On the other side was a political number game. The results are before us.

In the same manner, by not giving a clear majority to any single political party, voters have made it clear that their options are open. In the beginning, the Congress assumed that the elections were one-sided at least in Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh, the BJP was also convinced of the same. But the aspirations of both parties were foiled. Though the Congress succeeded in forming the government in both states, the message of the crippled mandate is clear—stay alert, we are watching.

The election results in Chhattisgarh have revealed to us a third tendency, and that is a strong desire for change. There were not many grievances against chief minister Raman Singh who was in charge for 15 years. Still, his party lost in the state only because the people wanted change. This also means that the voter, despite not being dissatisfied, wants a change of guard. The Congress did not have a leader of Raman Singh’s calibre, still the voters chose the Congress. The meaning is crystal clear. The elections cannot be won only by claiming that there’s no better option.

Don’t you feel that the voters of these states have heralded a change? To take this initiative further, it is important that before casting our vote in the forthcoming general elections, we ask questions of ourselves. By casting a vote without asking questions, we make our leaders power-drunk instead of accountable. A little effort on our side can make them responsible and accountable.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. His Twitter handle is @shekarkahin

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