Electoral corruption: Get rid of the ‘First Past The Post’ system
25 October, 2012
Electoral Reforms! As with everything else this also has several meanings in India. Many have been fighting a consistent battle for reforming the electoral system in India. Is it an attempt to tinker with the existing system and make it more presentable or is it an endeavour to replace the system with another systems?
Talk of reforms evokes reference to many areas of life and centuries of endeavours on many fronts. For ages now, many in India have been speaking of reforming the caste system. Child marriage, widow re-marriage, inter-caste marriage – there is no dearth of talks of reforms in India. We have succeeded in not throwing our caste system but in legitimizing it with discourses of Varna system. Varna has only consolidated and extended the oppressive arms of caste system. Reform only means a change in the nomenclature. Caste is replaced by Varna and glorified according to scriptures.
Every system in India, except electoral system is almost fossilized through many centuries of multiple consolidations. Resurrection of the argumentative Indian has led, every time, to a further embedding of the malevolent systems through multifarious arguments. Only the syllogism has changed. The technology of creating hype about reforms and finally ending up with retrograde steps has been consistent in India.
Take any issue. The pattern is stereotyped. India is very special. India is unique. Yes, it will never allow any lasting change to come about. Only those changes that strengthen the hold of the caste oligarchy will be allowed to take place in India. Almost every one in India seems to know the conclusion as soon as a new effort is made for reform.
The pattern is the same with electoral reforms, a repetition of the already stereotypical pattern. Very boring indeed! Speak of electoral reforms. Shout from rooftops. Refurbish the system so that a radical change may not come. Reel out data after data, statistics after statistics to prove that the system itself is good but only those who make use of it are corrupt. Create a strong impression that you are constantly tinkering with the system. People will have time only to look at the way you are tinkering with the system and never have the time to look deep into the stinking rottenness within the system itself.
Create a stronger impression that if the tinkering is done well the system will begin to function better. Speak of corruption in our electoral system and take all the blame to the doorsteps of politicians. It is the politicians who are corrupt and if they are cleansed, the system will function well. Never allow the voter to have a deeper look at every nook and corner of the electoral system. No one will ever ask what will happen with the next generation of politicians if the present generation is punished and removed. That is irrelevant as we are all busy with tinkering.
Do not ever replace the system. Do not ask ever why we borrowed a system from the British. Do not even let Indians know that the present First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system was designed by those countries that had two party democracies and that it has become irrelevant in India that has more than 600 registered parties.
Do not ever question the relevance of FPTP in a context where coalition politics has arrived irreversibly. Do not ever raise the question whether this system will work efficiently in a multicultural society. If somebody raised the question about the relevance of British system deviate the attention of the people to the American system and American democracy and glorify them.
Reel out one after another issue in electoral systems that need to be reformed in order to continue the tinkering effect. Never allow the people to think of the inseparable link between the system and corruption. The FPTP system itself promotes electoral corruption is nobody’s concern. That the French president and British Prime Minister are alleged to have taken money from Gadaffi to meet the electoral expenses of their parties within the Majoritarian electoral system should never be highlighted.
It is not the system but only two individuals who are at fault. By indulging in tinkering, mesmerize the people to think that the system is good and only those who use the system are corrupt. The guilty should be punished, yes but when the system itself is guilty who will bell the cat?
If it is corruption today, raise the question of compulsory voting tomorrow. Never question the fact that there is growing voter apathy because of the huge wastage of votes. The ordinary voter does not even know that only about 25% of votes in Indian democracy are winning votes. That a democracy that wastes nearly 75% of votes is a sham democracy should never come into public discourse.
Speak of enacting a law for compulsory voting so that voter may live under the illusion that with voting the democratic duty of the voter is over. Do not change the system and bring in another one that will give value to every vote. The Indian voter is plunged into eternal ignorance of the existence of electoral systems other than the one that we inherited from the British. Focus on compulsory voting but never give a thought to bring all voters in Indian democracy into inclusive governance.
When electoral discourse begins to warm up bring up the question of the right to call back. Withdraw an elected candidate and establish the stupidity of the voter, eh? In India it can mean the resurgence of caste or communal corruption. Some groups in a constituency do not want a legitimately elected member of the Parliament.
They mobilize people’s opinion against the Member by use of money, muscle, liquor, caste and religion as it is done now. Manipulate the system for personal ends, eh? A person from the untouchable community gets elected in the reserved seat. Another candidate from the touchable community but belonging to the SC category and is powerful wants to be elected. He has a bigger suitcase for the party bigwigs.
Voters decide to withdraw the untouchable Dalit member. Wow, what electoral reforms, na? Take every dimension of FPTP. It will lead to greater and greater tinkering of the system. It will create an illusion that India is constantly reforming its electoral systems. But the fact will remain that we shall have a skewed democracy and Indian voters will be repeated screwed wholesomely.
Fathers of the Constituent Assembly and the First Prime Minister of India had socialistic vision for India. There were heated arguments to do away with the British system of elections, as the Fathers of the Constitution clearly saw that FPTP would serve exclusive groups, I mean, groups that want to exclude a vast majority of people who belong to minority communities. The croaking about the uniqueness of Indian democracy will continue without any shame, only hide the shame of exclusion.
Countries that believe in socialism, egalitarianism, inclusion and stand against fascism have already thrown out FPTP and have shifted to Proportional Representation system. Not one or two but 89 democracies in the world have already changed their electoral system to PR system. Only 60 democracies, mostly former colonies of the British are still sticking on to FPTP.
What is so unique about Indian democracy? Is it that it is surviving despite excluding a vast majority of people from governance? Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it has created an illusion of inclusion and is still surviving. But this country of many failed reforms will continue to do that always and survive because her people equate access with inclusion and are happy with that illusion.
Advaita says that this world is an illusion and only Brahma is real. This is a country that believes in illusion as real and reality as illusion. It will survive by all means. It will survive many illusions and realities. It will thrive on illusions, the illusions of inclusion, the illusions of democracy, the illusion of governance, the illusions of reforms. If we need to march forward to true forms of governance, inclusion and democracy it is high time that we stop tinkering with our electoral system, throw it lock stock and barrel and shift to a more relevant and meaningful Proportional Representation system.
That will restore sanity and all talks of compulsory voting, negative voting, and right to withdraw, etc. They have no place and no need in PR system. This is the experience of the rest of the world. India should de-addict itself from British and American democracy and electoral systems in order to save herself and her governance. Throw out FPTP. Usher in Proportional Representation system. The earlier the better for India!