Looking at the recent elections, be it various state assemblies or the Delhi municipal corporation, the Indian voter is becoming sharper and demanding by the day. He is realising the value of his vote. He now knows the power behind numbers and the fact that each vote counts. The electorates have started seeing themselves as 'game changers'. They punish and reward in their own way.
The voter no more wants to be taken for granted. The message is getting loud and clear. The Indian voter is also getting smarter. He does not reveal his mind easily. He is learning to keep all brokers of power guessing. He wants the best specific deals, with a commitment that those would be honoured. At times, some voters encash their votes for goodies or freebies, but still use the confidentiality of casting the vote to do what they want to.
In light of this, is it not time that we, the electorate, exercised our responsibilities post elections? To do this well, we must be fully aware of what to expect from those we have voted to power and how to go about compelling them to deliver.
First and foremost, we must never forget the winning candidates' assurances, promises, declarations and written manifestoes. Citizen groups must keep track of these to be able to evaluate them and remind the people's representatives. Also, reconnect with the representatives by forming groups, associations, unions and bodies with changing needs that need urgent attention.
Ask for time-bound delivery and get a commitment on the date a service would be delivered. The pressure to deliver must be kept alive. The elected representative must know he has no choice but to deliver - or else, people would lose faith in his assurances and not forgive him for false commitments, and there will be no support for him when he or his party returns to seek future support.
Seeing the massive abuse of money, at no stage must we hand over cash or try and bribe our way. Remember, no money comes easy. Every penny is earned. All political donations must be made by cheque. The donor can ask for tax rebate as all donations made to political parties are tax-exempt. Do not distribute cash and contaminate the system. A lot of our cash donation goes into distribution of liquor (of course, not all candidates are guilty).
Active citizens must demand a town hall meeting with their elected representatives every six months. In this meeting, organised bodies must raise area concerns besides policy issues. They can ask for proposed investment plans for the area, the budgets, etc.
People must ask questions and also give their views on matters of concern to them. Let some senior citizen, known to be non-partisan, be chosen from among the people to conduct the meeting. And a group among them keep the minutes. Let issues be discussed with due decorum. The town hall meeting must provide equal opportunity to all sections of society, including the youth, to ask questions.
Most important of all, voters must ensure that the elected representative offers an account of what he did for his area/people in the last six months. By holding such meetings, the representative gets to meet his constituency, a sense of people's latest concerns, to communicate fresh challenges, and to take feedback.
Once a year, just as there is a performance review of all public servants and other employees, so should it be of our public representatives - done by us, the public.
Parameters of the performance report can be worked on, such as the quality of communication, speed of response, accessibility, perceived integrity of the representative, the quality of town hall meetings, their regularity, honouring of commitments, and whether he takes people's views into consideration and adequately represents them.
Imagine if all constituencies evaluate and publish performance reports. We may then succeed in arresting the decline in political performance. Voting is our right, but deepening democracy is our responsibility.