The Indian Juggernaut

The elections in India are over. The dust has settled. For me one of the most enduring images of the elections was a policewoman guarding a locked room where the electronic voting machines were kept. She was one of the two million security personnel whose job was to ensure free and fair elections.

We Indians have a habit of taking things for granted. Elections are the responsibility of the election commission. Hence we are oblivious of the magnitude of the arrangements made. Lets us look at the statistics.

Total Voter registered – 713.77 million

Polling stations – 834000

Total number of candidates – 8070

Total voting machines – 1.4 million

Total number of staff associated with elections – 10 million

 The election commission would have spent close to Rs. 20 billion (Rs 2000 crore) on the above arrangements. It is comforting to know 39-Ralakung with a total population of 23 voters and  40-Phema with 14 voters ( both in Jammu and Kashmir ) have polling stations with the polling staff trekking almost a day in advance in adverse knee deep snow conditions so that democracy is delivered to the doorstep of every Indian individual. Even if it tokenism, it’s worth it.

The total estimated expenditure for the Indian elections is Rs 10000-12000 crore (Including expenditure by Political   parties, candidates), all spent in a matter of few months compared to the year long American election campaign with a total spend of Rs 8000 crore.

 I was in college when Mr Prannoy Roy was asked to deliver a guest lecture about Indian democracy and though I do not remember most of the details, I remember his constant iteration that for Indians Democracy is in our DNA. It is so much intertwined as a part of our very existence that we don’t value it or pay any heed to it nor acknowledge it. Hence when I hear people talking about how India would have done better with a totalitarian leadership, I wonder whether it is because of their frustration with the slow speed and the red tape of the Indian bureaucracy or the corruption of the political class or an admiration for the Chinese government for the single minded purpose with which its drives reforms or a vague romanticizing of a benevolent dictator who will push development on  one side and maintain peace, harmony, civic sense and equitable wealth distribution on the other.

There are again many who argue that presidential form of government and not a parliamentary form of government is better suited for India. I will not get into the advantages and disadvantages of each, but just mention that while the constitution was being drafted there was enough discussion on which system of government should India have and the committee decided on Parliamentary system because it would be better equipped with handling the diversity of India. And in a situation where many Asian countries with Presidential form of Government are finding it difficult to maintain democracy, I guess somewhere the vision of the Dr B R Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru has been vindicated. It is sad that our history books do not discuss the evolution of the democratic culture in India but rather get into technical details like what is the qualification required for a Block Development Officer or the minimum number of members required for a bill to get passed and hence as students we tend to miss the wood for the trees.

The Indian State is like a giant wheel- a juggernaut. But once it starts rolling in the right direction it takes more than a few vested interests to change the direction. It is very difficult for one political party to make India communal. Nor is it easy for one leader to turn India into a dictatorship.

I think somewhere educated Indians have become too critical of India. I recently watched a very interesting documentary by Michael Moore. Set in the backdrop of a gun shoot out in a school, the documentary – Bowling for Columbine tries to find an answer to the deep rooted fear and gun culture in America. One of the most interesting revelations of the movie was a bank putting an advertisement in the local newspaper about giving free guns to those opening accounts in the bank. Michael Moore in his typical investigative style walks in and finds the bank storing more than 500 types of gun. I think each society has a problem which is unique to its own. And while we may not find bullets being sold in a local supermarket, we will find lots of poverty and slums outside the supermarket. And it our responsibility to solve this. 



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3 Responses to The Indian Juggernaut

  1. Nimisha Mishra says:

    Really great for an amatuer to express such a deep subject so simply! It had been a treat reading the article and gives a completely refreshing perspective to our thoughts. I agree when Pritwish writes; things are not that bad in india and we do tend to take things or granted, a point of view we all can relate to!


  2. Sachin Khandelwal says:

    This election is almost as landmark as the ’77 post emergency elections were ! of course the scale is much grander. the cost of this election is actually a multiple of the $ 4mln number reported in some media. But that is something our economy can afford, so long as it is once in five years. Which it seems to be this time around.

    the congress was positive, had professionalism written allover their campaign – tv advertorials, media ads, their backroom negotiations with other parties, critical work done by them in visible places like infrastructure …. AND the 6th pay commission. I think the common man appreciated that most and finally a deprived working class got its due. My own take is that this was the trump card that worked for them, besides the combination of Manmohan singh – whose image keeps getting cleaner, along with rahul gandhi as the front end. the women, typical of India, kept the house in order – Sonia gandhi masterminding it and Priyanka taking the mass appeal to the masses.

    What is also important learning is that once parties start displaying that they are holding their cards for the “mega negotiations” post elections, voters got wary of them Most opportunists kept their cards to themselves for far too long. and nobody lese had a positive campaign…. most of the regional parties kept doing anti congress negative campaigns. This time around people wanted more concrete commitments from candidates. Everyone hoped that nobody will get the mandate, so most big parties committed nothing.People saw that as lack of commitment and just dint vote for them. Or also, since they remained fragmented, the votes got divided !! Which is a very good lesson.

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