Former Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi today said educating people about the importance of exercising their franchise would prove much more effective than formulating laws which force them to vote.
“Compulsion and democracy don’t go hand in hand. The focus must be on educating the citizens to come out and vote rather than making a law and forcing them to,” Quraishi said.
The former CEC made the remarks here at the India Non Fiction Festival, where he was participating in a discussion “Making the mighty in India”.
The remark was made in the backdrop of the recent decision by Gujarat government to make voting in local body elections compulsory.
Quraishi was joined by political analyst Sanjay Kumar in a discussion that cut across the myriad facets of the election system in the world’s largest democracy, essentially boiling down to the question on what makes the election system tick in India.
The talk centered prominently on whether a mandatory voting law has any place in a democracy and also attempted to hold up a mirror to the current state of the universal franchise system in the country.
Quraishi’s book “Elections: an Undocumented Wonder” launched this year was based on the recent Assembly elections.
The discussion, which also talked about the campaign strategies of various political parties was moderated by author and TV journalist Rajdeep Sardesai “Credit must be given for the way the BJP handled its election campaign. I agree that they also had a better product than their opponents which is why they won” Sardesai said in reply to a question.
In his recently launched book “2014: The Election That Changed India” Sardesai talks about the surge not only in the number of general voters, but also in the number of young voters in the age group of 18 years to 23 years.
Analyst Sanjay Kumar said, “There has been a jump of 5-10 per cent in the number of young voters this time. Apart from that there has been a jump of 8 per cent in voter turnout. This probably points to the fact that in people there is a desire for change. It also shows they were fed up.”
The role played by the media in deciding poll outcome was also discussed.
“To say that the results of the election were decided primarily by media coverage would be wrong. Though the media coverage helped, it was not the primary reason for victory or defeat. For example in states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh there is minimal media coverage. Yet we all saw who won there,” Sardesai said.
The NOTA voting option as well as the corporate nexus in elections were also discussed.