Elections are a tool of reaching a compromise between the sparring members of a group. The best deliberation is obviously the one which genuinely ends into a unanimous decision because a single wise vote is any time better than a stupid majority. However, unanimity is seldom a possibility; the bigger the group the lesser the chances of reaching a unanimous decision. Therefore, the elections become important from the reason of practicality; however, anybody institutionalizing elections as a panacea to intra-group conflicts or recognizing it as an integral institution of democracy is guilty of lack of common-sense. Given the above perspective, the aim should always be to stay circumspect of the dangers of elections in derailing democracy.
Democracy, as taught in schools, is a system ensuring government by the people, of the people, for the people; elections can rarely ensure a government by the people leave aside their ensuring a government of the people or for the people; elections are a poor compromise, period. Thus, any system where millions of people elect a single person, the president, as an omnipotent head of the government can’t be a democracy; nor can a system which elects a few parliamentarian from amongst a billion be a democracy — certainly not when there are only a few political parties in the fray, and at least one of these parties projects a single man as a “God”, literally, and the people vote for a “God”, not men. In fact, party politics is the biggest hindrance to democracy: The people are duped by the parties through all kind of formal and informal inducements, and the rulers rule over the innocence of the people. Furthermore, the politicians’ role in the present day governments is diminishing: The things have become hyper specialized, and the specialists including managers selected through time-tested non-electoral processes make incremental changes while maintaining the status quo in general. This approach to governance is certainly conservative, but it works well. The role of the politicians is thus restricted to greasing the government machinery by removing serious bottlenecks and coordinating efforts as ministers; other than this, they may occasionally voice public opinions and check government over-reach, though I believe apolitical activists do it far better by ensuring the principles of democracy like “the rule of law”, “free and fair elections”, “separation of power”, “freedom of press”, “the trump of human rights”, etc; all other roles of the politicians are corrupt and a hurdle to democracy.
Elections in the current paradigm are, therefore, the interest area of the activists and the public at large, who would like to ensure free and fair elections with the clear aim of choosing the best persons amongst themselves for governance. Elections can be free and fair only if each and every process, right from the announcement of dates to the declaration of results especially the counting of votes, is well-documented, well-deliberated, well-publicized, well-objected and well-corrected. This can happen if the stakeholders have wide and streamlined access to the electoral processes, and they feel passionate towards getting involved in them. They certainly can’t feel passionate in checking a process from which they are disengaged by an overwhelming presence of many similar stakeholders competing with one-another to do the same, i.e. checking the process: They would feel bored, tired and disengaged in such a competition. Thus the competition ought to be restricted to a few people — ideally not more than 100 people — i.e., an elected representative shouldn’t represent anything more than 100 people, which means, in a country like India of population around 1 billion, there should be around 10 million elected representatives, not just 545 MPs. How these elected representatives should then further deliberate amongst themselves to form the governments at various levels, and what checks and balances need to be put in place to ensure that those who have lost representation of the people are weeded out, is a matter of debate; however, with the advantage of hindsight, I am ruling out party politics as an alternative. Obviously, the group processes hereon should be more complicated and should require the prioritized intervention of the specialists as well. The aim should be to ensure that the few people selected/elected as ministers from amongst the 10 million elected representatives are best suited for the jobs at stake, and to ensure that nobody can ill-exploit his status for infringing the human rights of those who elected him. I can clearly see many more deliberations and elections on the way, but, how exactly? That, I don’t know. In fact, I don’t think there can be any single well laid out process: It should be a constant spinning, producing different results at different times, and the players of democracy need to understand and adjust accordingly. The cost of this kind of democratic deliberations would certainly be very high, and the choice to be made: Is the idea of democracy worth the cost?
© 2014 Ankur Mutreja