Elections 2014: A challenge before the voter

Voters should involve more in the electoral process right from the selection of candidates by political parties to make the need to use NOTA button redundant

The promise to raise health spend to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) from the present low of 1.2%, which is a likely priority in the Congress manifesto should be welcomed. However, an offer coming from a political party that was at the helm for over 65 years, during which period, the record of steps taken to apply the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution (Articles 36 to 51), including Article 47 relating to ‘raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health’ will undergo credibility-test at the hustings (political campaigns).

 

The impact on the aam aadmi such offers will have, encouraging him to improve his awareness about his rights and government’s duties, may, itself work as a change agent. Viewed from this perspective, other political parties should follow Congress in selective highlighting of citizen’s rights and duties. After all, like Directive Principles, as of now, election promises are also ‘not enforceable by any court’.

 

By creating more awareness among people about expectations of the authors of Indian Constitution, from the governments, political parties will be doing a great service to themselves and the country. Such a shift in the thematic content of election campaign will make Elections 2014 different from the previous ones. Who knows, it may even pave the way for a national consensus on crucial issues making the kind of the unhappy scenes the closing ceremonies of last Lok Sabha telecast to the world viewers a thing of the past.

 

This discussion can be taken further. In my article How much of Indian Constitution is for ‘We, the people’? I had quoted Arvind Kejriwal saying:  “There are some fundamental issues which we are committed to and are non-negotiable- secularism, equality and non-violence. All that has been written in the preamble of the Constitution that is our basic agenda.”

 

Time is opportune to recall this and see what thoughts should prevail upon the Indian voter before exercising his franchise in Elections 2014, even if, in certain situations he may opt for the last option, namely, pressing the none of the above (NOTA) button.

 

That takes us back to the pre-election propaganda and manifestos of political parties. The churning in the political scenario, partly caused by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rise, is forcing the Indian voter think more seriously about his rights and government’s responsibilities.

 

True, this country’s problems, from day one, post-independence, can be sourced to centralisation of power and resources. It does not start or end with government or governance.

 

Our Constitution gives enough flexibility in governance and the clarity of guidance for handling almost everything coming under the broad responsibilities of legislature, executive and judiciary is perhaps unique to the Indian Constitution. Perhaps, if the political leadership in whose hands the responsibility of administering the Constitution vests revisit the Constitution with the promises made by several candidates who fought past elections and their achievements as also the possible realignment of priorities in promises needed in the context of the recent political developments, it may still be possible to bring some clarity in the minds of the bewildered voters.

 

The issues covered in entire chapter on Directive Principles, mutatis mutandis, are suggested for acceptance for inclusion in election speeches/manifestos.

 

Several areas of social justice such as gender equality, right to an adequate means of livelihood, distributive justice, healthcare, avoidance of child labour, protection for vulnerable sections of society against exploitation and abandonment, equal justice, free legal aid for the needy, organisation of village panchayats, right to work, right to education, public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief, living wage and decent standard of life for workers, promotion of cottage industries, workers’ participation in management, uniform civil code for the citizens, provision for childhood care and education to children below six years, support to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and weaker sections of society, raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living of the people, improvement in public health, modernising agriculture and animal husbandry, protecting environment, protection for monuments and places and objects of national importance, separation of judiciary and executive and promotion of international peace and security are all covered under directive principles of state policy.

 

(Articles-39 to 51).

Preamble of the Constitution reads:

“WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

And to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”

 

This has placed the responsibility of ensuring that right choices are made when the right to vote is exercised squarely on the citizen. Thus, voters should involve more in the electoral process right from the selection of candidates by political parties, making the need to use NOTA button redundant!

 

(MG Warrier is former general manager of Reserve Bank of India.)

Comments
Yerram Raju Behara
8 years ago
It is time that all the political parties pledge not to take party lines in the elections to the Cooperative Societies and Agricultural Market Yards and the governing boards to these entities will not be decorated with political bigwigs. Financial Inclusion agenda would be hanging at the doorsteps of these institutions for fuller and quicker realization.
MG Warrier
Replied to Yerram Raju Behara comment 8 years ago
Thanks. This is the purpose of opening discussions. Wish more readers participate. Not necessarily endorsing or contesting the views already expressed-these are welcome- but coming out with views on related issues
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