7th MAY 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. Discuss why the idea of simultaneous elections is against the principle od Democracy.
- The implications of holding simultaneous elections to the Parliament and State Assemblies run contrary to the spirit of democracy, as well as that of federalism.
- Democracy enables a peaceful transfer of power from one political elite to another. It is, relatively speaking, more economical than authoritarian governments, which spend an inordinate amount of money in suppressing dissent. And above all, democracy provides legitimacy and enables accumulation of power in the name of ‘the people’. The idea that democracy is valuable because it secures a designated good, however, poses a dilemma.
- Elections (a) enable the selection of candidates who will speak for and to the citizens; and (b) allow citizens to hold representatives responsible. That is, elections ensure a necessary correlation between the interests of the citizens and the accountability of the ruling class.
- In between elections, citizens can hold the rulers responsible for all acts of omission and commission through participation in movements, campaigns and other modes of representation in civil society. Citizens and their representatives thus engage in permanent conversations. Elections facilitate and develop the conversation between citizens and representatives. Elections are not equivalent to democracy; they are a definitive component of the democracy project.
- Unlike direct democracy, modern democracies are based upon the principle of representation. All elected representatives ‘stand in’ for their constituents in legislatures, but the responsibility of the ruling party is much more. It has to represent the interests of even those citizens who did not vote for it. If it fails to do so, and if the Opposition can muster the numbers in the legislature, it can vote the government out and provide an alternative government. Alternatively, the country can go to the polls to elect a new government. Under the proposed scheme, if the government fails to heed the mandate given by citizens, but the Opposition cannot offer an alternative government, and elections cannot be held before the stipulated time, the government will continue to rule, but illegitimately. This is the conundrum of simultaneous elections.
- Citizens must be well-informed on affairs of the state, the region, the local, and the global, before they make choices that are reasonably intelligent. In large and unwieldy societies like India, citizens should be able to distinguish between national issues, for example foreign policy and defence, and local issues that affect their quotidian lives, lack of education and health, the pathetic state of roads and water bodies, provision of infrastructure, and ease of living one’s life in relative autonomy from political intervention. The case for a federal form of government is constructed precisely on the need for decentralised power, decentralised finances, and accessible governments. Across the world the trend is towards regional autonomy. In India where this demand has acquired serious proportions in many parts of the country, any push towards the standardisation of elections will exacerbate the problem.
- Citizenship lies at the heart of electoral democracy. Citizens are stake-holders in the political system — therefore, they have the right to participate in processes of decision-making that affect them individually and collectively.Participation in national and State elections expands the spaces of citizenship.
- A fixed system of elections provides representative with a god-given chance to ignore the constituency for five years and come back only during the silly season.
- Finally, many and repeated elections are good for democracy for another reason. Democracy is not based upon faith in representatives, it is based on suspicion. That is why we feel the need to stalk and monitor our representatives. We should be provided with the chance of vesting our confidence, provisionally, in another set of candidates. Political sociologists call this phenomenon the circulation of elites.