Should voting be compulsory? Of course, say many Indians

March 20th, 2009 - 12:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Nabeel A. Khan
New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) Voting should be made compulsory — that seems to be the general consensus binding celebrities and common people alike as the country hurtles towards another election, though politicians themselves are divided.

Making voting mandatory may be a controversial move, but there seemed to be little debate on the matter with an overwhelming number of people that IANS spoke to for it. Governance will improve and democracy will get strengthened if voting is made compulsory is the view as another general election looms ahead.

Everyone has a stake, from the villager in Poonch to the star film director in Mumbai.

Mohammed Khursheed from Dodi village in Jammu and Kashmir’s troubled district of Poonch, which is close to the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan and has seen more than its share of terrorist violence, said: “Everyone should vote and if the government makes it necessary, it will be the best.”

“In my village, there are no roads or electricity and water supply. If everyone votes, I hope it will change our fortune,” Khursheed told IANS.

Sanjay Sharma from Khapare village of Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district wanted voting to be made mandatory so as to involve “even those who talk on TV and write in newspapers but do not vote”.

“Voting should be made a compulsory duty. Then no one can ignore it and voting percentage will increase. This will ensure a right person wins the election,” contended Hemchandra Lohani, a freelance trekking instructor from Uttarakhand.

Sneha Shekhawat, a New Delhi-based project manager with a multinational corporation, said mandatory voting would be a great idea, but the government should also introduce easier options to vote, like through SMS or Internet.

Management student Manoj Agarwal of New Delhi also said felt mandatory voting will definitely ensure the right candidate is elected, but there should also be an option to recall the representative.

At the other end of the spectrum was filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar who said categorically: “Voting should be made mandatory… it will help (people) choose the right kind of representative at every level.”

If voting is made compulsory, the people will not blame politicians for everything, Bhandarkar told IANS.

Charging politicians with misguiding people, film director Abhigyan Jha said he supported the move but suggested that there should also be provision to vote for none of the candidates and for cancellation of candidature.

Actress Mandira Bedi, who admitted being impressed with a TV commercial (”Jago Re”) encouraging people to vote, said: “Post-26/11 so many people said we do not want to vote, but that is a wrong approach. Voting should be made mandatory, but unfortunately the system is not in place.

“I think it is rightly said that if you do not vote, you are sleeping.”

Agreeing with Mandira, actor and TV host Shekhar Suman said: “I think now the time has come that we should become responsible and vote. We cannot only blame politicians, if we have not done our bit.”

“If voting is made mandatory, then more and more educated and deserving people will get into power,” he said, adding that he, however, did not advocate “anything being done at gun point”.

Though Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prakash Javadekar agreed, Congress leader Salman Khursheed said any kind of policing was not right.

“As democracy is maturing, the voting percentage is also increasing; so we should give a serious thinking on making voting compulsory for every citizen,” Javadekar said here, adding this also required removal of mistakes from electoral rolls.

“We should also ensure that there is no bogus voting.”

Striking a different note, Khursheed said: “It is not possible to implement compulsory voting in India. Those who advocate this idea do not know the reality of India. We do not even have polling boths everywhere and people have to walk kilometres to vote.

“There is no proper arrangement of voter ID cards. How can we expect to implement compulsory voting successfully?” Khursheed asked.

Voting is compulsory in over 30 countries.

(Nabeel A.Khan can be contacted at nabeel.k@ians.in)

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