Voter turnout is something which decides the success of a democracy. However, voter turnout also depends on the nature of democracy. India has always suffered a low voter turnout and the major reason is certainly the nature of Indian democracy. India is a majority representative democracy, which in fact is nothing better than aristocracy or a joke on the name of democracy.
Mahatma Gandhi criticized the representative democracy when he said, “If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined. Parliaments are merely emblems of slavery.”
Mahatma Gandhi strongly criticized the idea of majority rule and stated, “It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority.”
During the last Indian general election of 2009, the average voter turnout was around 59%. 41 percent of adult Indian voters refused to take part in elections. Out of 59% voters who took part in the plebiscite, 37.22% (of 59% of total Indian voters) chose the current Congress lead UPA government to rule over them. That is, around 22% of Indian voters chose the UPA government to rule over the rest of 78% Indian voters. This is certainly a jinx that a political front with just 22% of favorable vote share can claim the right to rule over every Indian and make laws to govern them.
Why Indian Voters do not vote?
Most of the 41% Indians who decide to not to vote in Indian general or assembly elections are well learned, educated and aware people. They voluntarily decide not to vote and they cannot be forced to vote. Voting is certainly not a duty, it is just a right.
Yet, it is important to understand why 41% of Indians do not vote?
Some people suggest that they do not vote because they do not have a good option to vote for. They neither believe in the ruling political party nor in the main opposition party. They also suggest that if a new political front with new ideas and policies and an honest conscience come in front, then it may increase the voter turnout. However, it is not true.
The basic reason behind the low turnout in elections is not the lack of options; rather it is the basic flaw of current political theory which is often represented as “the consent of the governed1 ” to be ruled by the government. The consent of the governed is based upon the Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”
In the Indian general election 2009, only 22% of total Indian voters were in favor of the UPA government and 41% of Indian voters refused to vote because they wanted no political party to rule over them, 15% Indian voters wanted the rule of NDA while the rest wanted the third front to rule over India. The biggest share was of those Indian voters who didn’t want any political party to rule. Yet, the UPA government, which had a minority of votes (just22%), claimed the right to govern and that too in accordance with the consent of governed. It is fraud.
Those people who had voted against UPA government had no option, neither those who decided to not to vote. They expressed their lack of consent to the UPA government and it went unnoticed.
I am raising this point because whenever a person say that he does not support a policy or act of the government (like the opposition of Anna Hazare and Janlokpal Bill, or the violent attack on Swami Ramdev and his supporters at the midnight of 4th of June at Ramleela Maidan), the government says that it has the consent of the governed and Indian people are forced to respect the UPA government and its representatives so of the so-called social contract.
However, none of the Indian citizen has ever seen any social contract2 , they have never signed or agreed for any contract and nobody ever asked for their consent for that contract. It is all assumed and imaginary like a fairy tale and we are forced to accept and respect it. Whenever a person tries to raise voice against the tyranny of government, he is threatened and is forced to comply with the edicts of government.
Can the idea of “consent of the governed3 ” be experimented in reality? What would be the content of a social contract if a political party willing to rule over you, me and other Indians to get our approval and the consent of the governed? Here, is a typical deal that a political party may make in the social contract:
I, the leader of the party of the first part (“the ruler”), promise:
(a) To decide what percentage of your money will be robbed by me (through taxation), as well as how, when, and where the transfer will be made. You will have no say in it; however you may plead for my mercy in form of subsidies. If you fail to comply, you will be blamed as thief, black money holder, anti-national and government officers will have right to punish you through fines, imprisonment and death in case you oppose consistently.
(b) To make thousands of laws and rules to which you must obey without questioning and if you fail to obey, you will be punished. You have no right to determine what these rules should contain as only the parliament can make rules. These rules will be complex, inconceivable and mostly irrational; yet if you fail to comply with any of them, I and government officers will be free to punish you to the limits decided by the laws made by me and my associates.
(c) To provide so-called public goods and services for your use as decided by me and my agents. While you may use some of these public goods and services, most of them will have no or little use for you and some of them may be utterly disgusting. Furthermore, you cannot complain and demand in quality services, you are to accept whatever is provided to you. You will not have any say in what kind of goods and services should be provided to you (as in case government decided to ban natural native seeds and to provide only GM Seeds)
(d) In case you find something disputable or corrupt in my government’s conduct, the court and judges beholden to me for their appointment and salaries will decide about the claims and blames. The investigating agencies (CBI, IB, NIA, etc) that directly work under my supervision and orders will check the disputes. There is no guarantee that your claims and blames will he heard and even if they are being heard, you can expect a loss and my investigative agencies will also look to frame false charges against you. Whole government setup will work as a big propaganda machine against you (as is being done against Swami Ramdev4 , Balkrishna, Anna Hajare, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and others by CBI, Income Tax Department and IB).
In exchange of the aforementioned benefits that my government will provide you, you, the voters of this country (‘the governed’) promise:
(e) To shut up, not to agitate against government and to obey all orders issued by the government and officers, respect the rulers as if they were important, honorable godly people, and when they say “run,” ask only “how fast,” and “how far?”
Such a ‘social contract’ to gain ‘the consent of the governed,’ can you really imagine any sane, well-educated, self-aware and honest person would agree to it?
This is the main reason why educated self-aware and honest Indians refuse to vote. So who are the other 59% Indians who exercise their so-called right to vote? They are those who are yet not so self-aware, illiterate and down-to-earth people who think that being ruled by a tyrant government is their destiny, that the government will remove their poverty, deficiencies, and ill-fate.
The great political philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon5 described such voters who believe in the setup of government and defined the situation of being governed as:
To be GOVERNED is to be kept in sight, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right, nor the wisdom, nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction, noted, registered, enrolled, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, squeezed, mystified, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, despised, harassed, tracked, abused, clubbed, disarmed, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and, to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality. (P.-J. Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century6 , trans. John Beverley Robinson. London: Freedom Press, 1923, p. 294)
In current scenario, we may also add to the admirably precise description of ‘to be governed’ by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon by adding that to be governed also means our being digitally monitored, tracked by orbiting satellites, tamed every now and then, beaten and attacked, and invaded in our premises by the Police, Army and CBI often under pretext of their overruling over our natural rights through situations of Emergency (at Jantar Manatr, Ramleela Maidan and in whole country in 1975).