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Cast a vote, or you will lose out

mumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2012 01:06 IST
Kunal Purohit
Kunal Purohit
Hindustan Times
Kunal Purohit

In the 2007 civic elections, BJP candidate Manoj Kotak, who was contesting from Mulund (ward no. 99), won 4,254 votes, which is just 5.31% of the total ward electorate. But he was elected corporator of that ward.

Kotak isn't alone. Although Navy Nagar's Congress corporator Prema Singh bagged just 1,110 of the total 13,250 votes in the ward - 8.37% of the total electorate - it was enough to get her elected.

Pour over the data of the last civic elections and you will see that it is not a new phenomenon. When you don't cast your vote, the politicians have the last laugh.

A combination of poor voter turnout, division of votes and a voting system that does not insist on absolute majority means that politicians get elected despite having few votes.

Some activists think the country's choice of voting system is to blame for it. India currently follows the first-past-the-post voting system, where the candidate who gets the highest number of votes bags the seat. The system does not insist on an absolute majority for the winning candidate.

Sharad Kumar, AGNI trustee, said: "When half the electorate does not even vote, the representative who wins can barely be called the true representative. To add to it, the winning candidates win despite barely any votes."

Surendra Srivastava from Lok Satta, a citizens' group that has now become a political party and has been campaigning for another voting system, said: "Such a system cannot be truly called a representative system of democracy as the winning candidate has the approval of a very small number of the ward's population. You get candidates whom most of the electorate does not identify with."

The answer lies in an alternative system of voting, Srivastava said. "We are proposing a system of voting wherein each voter will have two votes, where one will be cast for the candidate and the other will be cast for the preferred party," he explained.

Kumar, however, believes the solution lies in getting more people to vote. "Mumbai has this problem because its electorate does not believe in coming out to vote. There is nothing wrong with the system, other cities in the country have voting percentages as high as 80%. If Mumbai wants to change this, it needs to come out and vote."