Monday, April 6, 2009

The Election Methodology of Indian Democracy Warrants Improvement

The prevailing (2009 & earlier) election methodology of India calls for a redesign. Reasons for that being:

1. People have no faith in it.

2. What it gives is rule of minority or at best rule of majority but not the rule of the people for sure.

3. What we aspire is a rule of, for & by the people and an election process in which people have faith and interest.

4. It appears that a limited proportional representation would be more desirable than the existing one.

These four points may be elaborated as:

A. People have no faith in it.

Is it not the reason for low voter turn-out in most of the elections? If not, why does the polling percentage remain low almost always in spite of the mammoth campaign extravaganza through media (both print & electronic), wall posters, hoardings, loud speaker announcements, processions, corner meetings, squad work etc etc. Is it not true that a major chunk of votes are polled under compulsion from some quarters or other? One cannot attribute the abstinence from voting to the tune of 40-50% to illness or other unavoidable exigencies.

B. What the existing election gives is either rule of minority or at best rule of majority but certainly NOT RULE OF THE PEOPLE.

From among the contesting candidates of each constituency only one who bags the highest number of (valid) votes reaches the house-of representatives (Central Parliament, State Assembly or Local Self Government Council). Broadly speaking, a winner gets maximum votes in a straight contest (that is when there are only two candidates in the fray). Generally it does not go much beyond 50% of the polled votes; but for argument sake let us assume that the winner pegs 60% of the votes. Even then those 40%, who cast their votes in favour of the lost candidate go unrepresented in the house. (In a scenario where even governments are not totally unbiased, how can anyone expect an elected representative to be so!!).

None of the elections till date have had 100% polling - be it to the Parliament or to the Board of Directors of a Co-operative society. So, on that count (of absence) also the number of voters being represented by the winning candidate gets lowered.

It is only natural that as the number of contestants increase, the vote bagged by the winner (can) get reduced. If some one asks "how low it can fall" the answer can be "even to 2"! (This need not & does not happen, any how.)

So now, even though it is known as rule of majority (since the winner gets more votes than each of the losers), in the light of the fact that most of the elections record large number of candidates as well as low rate of polling, an assessment on the basis of the total number of eligible voters shows that it is more appropriate to term it as the RULE OF MINORITY.

C. What we want is a rule for, of & by the people and an election process in which people have faith and interest.

Democracy means government of the, by the & for the PEOPLE and NOT of the, by the or for the MAJORITY. Does this not mean that Government should have the participation of at least all those voters who participate in the election?

For this, should we not have representation of each vote, in the house-of representatives? Obviously present election procedure does not provide this. It is only those who cast their vote in favour of the won candidate gets representation in the body of representatives.

In the present system of election, in every constituency only ONE VOTE is having real value. It is that one vote which is in excess of the first runner-up candidate. This is because the number of votes the winner gets in excess of the runner-up is immaterial as far as the result or the strength/power of the contestant in the house is concerned. Whether it is ONE or ONE MILLION does not make any difference. In either case he/she is a winner (and only a winner as any other)!

This means that all votes other than THAT ONE VOTE are as good as null and void. (Most of them who abstain from polls are those people who are aware of this fact.) This is not the way it should be. What is the point in casting a vote which is likely to become null & void due to the flaw of the system?

D. A Limited Proportional Representation (LPR) mode of election.

What is meant by this is a mode of proportional representation different from that adopted for the election of The President of India, but ensuring value & representation to each & every valid vote that is cast. It is simple and ''do not have preference votes''. (Preference vote may confuse even M.L.A's and is it not the reason why we had invalid votes even in election of president of India in which the voters are MLA's & MP's?) Each voter can cast one & only one vote, as usual.

In the proposed mode even though the contestants are individuals, the votes go to the party's account & not to the individual's. The numbers of votes scored by all the candidates of each party/coalition are added up and the number of representatives of that party/coalition are calculated based on this total.

Ballot (not paper now-a-days) will have as usual the name and symbol of candidates. Each voter can cast vote in favour of one candidate only. (In future ballot may have provision to cast negative vote as well) As far as voter is concerned every thing will be as usual. Difference is in deciding the result. Even counting will be as usual.

E. Deciding the election result.

In the Limited Proportional Representation (LPR) mode of election, the result is decided at the State level or National level (& not at the constituency level). It is as follows:

(1) Total Number of Constituencies/Seats = NC
(2) Total number of Eligible Voters = EV
(3) Total Votes Cast = CV
(4) Votes scored by each party = V(a), V(b), V(c),...
[Instead of a, b, c,... the abbreviations approved by the Election Commission may be used. For example: V(CPM), V(CPI), V(BJP), V(DMK), V(INC), V(KC) ... . All independents will be put together under V(INDEP)]
(5) The number of representatives of each party/coalition = Vote Scored by them / Total Votes Cast * Total Number of Constituencies ( here "/" means divided by and "*" means multiplied by)
That is, MLA(#) or MP(#) = V(N) / CV * NC
For example:
In the 2004 Loksabha poll (14th Loksabha) two crore eighty seven lakh sixty nine thousand three hundred and forty two (2,87,69,342 Or 28,769,342) votes were polled in Tamil Nadu. Out of this nearly thirteen and a half lakh (1.35 million) (13,41,925) votes were in favour of B.J.P. Tamil Nadu has 39 loksabha constituencies. So as per the above calculation B.J.P. is eligible for one M.P. from Tamil Nadu (if decimal part is truncated). (13,41,925 / 2,87,69,342 * 39 = 1.819).If the norm is to round off decimal part greater than 0.75 to 1.0, BJP would have been eligible for 2 MPs from Tamil Nadu. In the 14th Loksabha we know that BJP has NO MPs from Tamil Nadu. When DMK has 16 MPs from 70 lakh (7 million) votes, AIADMK with 85 lakh (8.5 million) votes DID NOT HAVE EVEN A SINGLE MP!

These should not be viewed as a problem, gain or loss of these political parties but on the contrary it should be seen as a lacuna or weakness of our democratic process.

F. If the proposed methodology is adopted, there will be an MLA, MP or Councilor in the elected body to represent each & every citizen who participates in the election process by casting a valid vote. This confidence (or fact) will indubitably persuade more people (especially the young as well as the educated ones) to take part in the voting. This will naturally increase the polling percentage which in turn will strengthen our DEMOCRACY and make it more meaningful - for sure.

G. In the equation to calculate the number of representatives of each party (E 5 above) if we scale down the total number of seats (NC) proportionate to the ratio of total Votes Cast and total number of Eligible Voters {(CV / EV), [we get scaled NC = original NC * CV / EV]}, value of cast votes and the interest of a citizen to cast his/her vote will increase further.

Further (as well as minute) details are kept in abeyance for brevity.

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