Robust electoral process, pressing need of the hour - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Robust electoral process, pressing need of the hour

Jun 02, 2024 11:40 PM IST

One hopes that the Commission will evaluate both its shortcomings and successes. Improving the electoral process is the most pressing need of the hour.

The final phase of voting for the 18th Lok Sabha has concluded, and now the world’s largest electorate eagerly awaits the results. People abroad, who have varied reasons for their interest in New Delhi’s political landscape, are keenly watching the outcome of the election. Over the years, when each election ends, I am reminded of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during World War II who once arrogantly claimed that democracy in India would not survive beyond the third general election. But India’s so-called “men of straw” have delivered a fitting response to such colonial assertions.

Polling officials gather to submit electronic voting machines (EVMs) and other polling materials at a collection centre in Varanasi on June 1, 2024, at the end of the seventh and final phase of voting in India's general election. India's Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked set to win a third straight landslide election victory on June 1, at the close of a six-week general election bedevilled by searing heatwaves. (Photo by Niharika KULKARNI / AFP)(AFP) PREMIUM
Polling officials gather to submit electronic voting machines (EVMs) and other polling materials at a collection centre in Varanasi on June 1, 2024, at the end of the seventh and final phase of voting in India's general election. India's Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi looked set to win a third straight landslide election victory on June 1, at the close of a six-week general election bedevilled by searing heatwaves. (Photo by Niharika KULKARNI / AFP)(AFP)

India’s elections are unique. Each election reveals different colours and attitudes. This time, for instance, more than 50% of votes were cast on average in the Kashmir Valley. In Anantnag, once a stronghold of terrorists, the turnout reached 55.4%. Previous elections in Kashmir were often marred by irritants, but this time, hope and enthusiasm were clearly evident.

Every election since the 1980s, except this one, has seen separatists claim that voters were forcibly brought from their homes and made to stand at polling booths.

This was the first general election in the Kashmir Valley since Article 370 was repealed on August 5, 2019. Previous experiences demanded that the Election Commission of India (ECI) use extreme prudence. This was also accomplished. As a result, not even minor incidents of violence occurred in the Valley. Kashmiris have clearly grasped that if their voices need to be heard in Delhi, the only way to do so is to elect representatives and send them to the country’s largest panchayat. Should we believe that the days of Pakistani deceit are over? The situation has undoubtedly improved, but we must be alert. In this region, the relationship between democracy and the people has often proved to be fragile.

If there was enthusiasm in the Valley, it should also have reflected in the national Capital. But only 55.43% of voters in New Delhi fulfilled their democratic duty. Decades from now, won’t researchers examining these numbers suggest that the trends in New Delhi and Anantnag were similar? Not only Delhi but also Mumbai and other major cities also disregarded the call of the times in this regard. Indian democracy has been upheld more by the rural populations than by the “white-collar” demographic.

Let me present another figure for your consideration. The first general election in 1951-52 had about 173.2 million eligible voters, of whom 44.87% exercised their franchise. Currently, 970 million people are registered to vote in the country. Data from the ECI suggests that the voter turnout is lower this time compared to the last election.

Another noteworthy fact is that the first general election spanned five months, whereas this time it lasted one-and-a-half months, making it the second-longest election in the country’s history. During this period, an unprecedented heatwave hampered both campaigning and voting. It’s no surprise that many politicians and eminent personalities have appealed to the ECI to shorten the duration of the general elections and avoid holding it during extreme heat or winter. Also, the concept of “one nation, one election” is being strongly advocated.

Also, once again during the election campaign, the people endured the disrespectful language of their leaders with a sense of sadness and disbelief. Such political discourse undermines the trust of voters, as evidenced by the low voter turnout in the sensitive Hindi belt. Our leaders, while making unfounded statements, seem to forget that they are under the omnipresent scrutiny of social media. Countless memes mocking absurd statements made by leaders have gained popularity this time around. It begs the question: Why don’t political parties and politicians of India watch what they say?

The ECI faced criticism this time, too, over issues such as delays in collecting voting data and not curbing the use of foul language by leaders. This overshadowed the ECI's commendable efforts in ensuring violence-free elections in such a vast country. Another notable point is that West Bengal witnessed more violence than Jammu and Kashmir. One hopes that the Commission will evaluate both its shortcomings and successes. Improving the electoral process is the most pressing need of the hour.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crickit, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Infographics & much more. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, July 14, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On