Sunday, March 29, 2009

Defranchised by ignorance

Continuing my election related comments ...

While Wikipedia'ing for my last election post, I came upon something curious and something that I'd forgotten after middle school ... elections to Legislative Council.

Quoting from Wikipedia article
The members of the Vidhan Sabha are directly elected by people through adult franchise. The members of the Vidhan Parishat are elected indirectly by members of local bodies, teachers and graduates. There are 76 members of the Vidhan Parishat.
So, what is this bit about graduates ? Just in case I'm wrong, I looked into another wiki article
The size of the Vidhan Parishad cannot be more than one-third the membership of the Vidhan Sabha, the Legislative Assembly (lower house) of that state. But its size cannot be less than 40 except in Jammu and Kashmir where there are 36 by an Act of Parliament. One-sixth of its membership is nominated by the Governor from among persons who have excelled in science, arts, social service and other activities. Another one-third is elected by the local government bodies and one-twelfth by teachers of secondary schools, colleges and universities.

See the absence of any mention of graduates ? So, let us go to the source, the Constitution of India, Article 171, Section 3, Sub-section b
b. as nearly as may be, one-twelfth shall be elected by electorates consisting of persons residing in the State who have been for at least three years graduates of any university in the territory of India or have been for at least three years in possession of qualifications prescribed by or under any law made by Parliament as equivalent to that of a graduate of any such university;

That settles it. As a graduate (post-graduate, actually), I'm eligible to vote. Google searching yielded only one site - which said I could vote.

This is indeed puzzling, because I hadn't heard about it before. Is it because very few states have got bicameral legislature ? I asked my mother who is a graduate and she had no clue.

Is this a big secret or something ? Or am I defranchised because I'm ignorant ?

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Elections 2009 - Hobson's choice

As the country prepares for a periodic festival of insanity called elections, I'm required to make a tough choice. The difficulty is because of the peculiar form of Government that we have

a) I can't elect a Prime Minister ... I can vote for an MP who'd elect or horse-trade his PM candidate.
The Parliament is also kinda useless, because no work happens there - only fist fights. If there is a rank for number of walk-outs, then I'm sure my incumbent MP would pass through with flying colors.
There are of course, well meaning armchair rear-admiral/strategists who were advocating presidential form of Government. After 8 years of George Bush, nobody wants to talk about it. It is nice to have a figure-head lameduck head of state who has no powers, but can take all the blame. It is a very cute idea.

b) It is nice as a whole to have a lot of regional parties, thereby giving a voice to each region. But, at the same time, the Central Government can't be allowed to destabilize by the regional chieftains, who don't care about anything other than their own power. So, that means I have choose a national party.

There are two principal national parties, and then there are the sub-national parties. I don't want to vote for Congress, because they are what we have been having for past 50 years or so, and look where we landed up. They also want us to go into some sort of kingdom, which ofcourse won't fly with me.

I don't want to vote for BJP, because they try to preach that my friends are actually enemies because they were born into some religion. No, thank you. I want my country to stay united.

I don't want to vote for the mythical Third Front, because firstly, they don't care, and secondly, they want to be anti-Congress and anti-BJP, meaning they won't take up even the little development the other two undertake.

There are the same well-meaning armchair rear-admiral/strategists mentioned above that want two-party system here. Now that is an awful idea as seen from American experience. If there are only two principal parties, they are going to disagree on almost everything ... so no room for compromise. Idealogy is for idiots ... not for real-world. Future (even for next 5 years) can't be concretized into a printed manifesto or a 1000-year old (150 year old, in case of communists) idealogy. I absolutely won't vote for any party with ideology or a manifesto.

c) Then there are the newspapers and media (and cute anchors) and associated astrologers, optimistically called psephologists. At one point of time, it used to be good to watch Tonight Show -> Star News -> NDTV and have Prannoy Roy and Dorab whoever explain the various permutations of caste politics. Unfortunately, that's where they are - ten years behind. They can show on the map, precise populations of Vokkaligas and Lingayats and other castes, precise proportion of age group in the electorate and expect me to vote as per their analysis. As a reaction to stereotyping me, I'm determined to single-votedly make them unemployed.

d) Then there is the fundamental fact that I dislike politicians ... across the board. They want the opportunity to rule me, and while I can't do anything about that, what I can do is to make them nervous ... not take my vote for granted.

That is why I've decided to confound all of them. Statistically, my vote is insignificant, but I don't want to think so ... who knows it may be the last straw that can break a camel's back ? It would be nice to have a Tamil Nadu system, where there is a landslide anti-incumbency vote every election, no matter what they do. Keeps the politicians on their toes, you know.

Then there is the difficulty as to what am I voting for and what can the MP do ?

Over the years, I've grown to realize that we really do get the Government we deserve. If I vote for a candidate who claims to represent my caste, then I can't complain if that is _all_ I get. Only caste identity politics ... no development, no Governance. So, whatever be my vote, I get to live with the consequences.

If I want the MP to shout in Parliament, I'll vote for the loudest one (they are usually found in B-school group discussions). I really don't know what an MP does, because I haven't seen any MP yet. If he has done anything with that 5 crore constituency development fund, he has kept it invisible ... possibly, some sort of Skunkworks project going on ?

The only thing that I can experience is my neighbourhood, for which there is a corporator incharge ... whom also I haven't seen so far.

So, where does that leave me ?

Is it worth to choose the MP who is a puppet to dance to the tunes of the party whip, who in turn dances to the tune of the party head, who usually isn't elected or is accountable to people ? Should I even bother ?
Does this election campaign address my fundamental requirement - "What's in it for me ??".

Have I decided who to vote for ? Yes
Am I going to reveal that to anyone ? Absolutely not. Secret motive is key to keep a puppet dancing....
What's in it for me ? Nothing.
Does it matter ? No. Either way, we're all screwed.
Doesn't it bother me ? No... in the long run, we're all dead anyway.