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Does your vote really matter?

Kiran Batni http://kiranbatni

Updated: April 3, 2014, 2:36 PM IST
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Wherever you are in the world, chances are your national political establishment likes to call your vote sacred. There's probably no end to people advising you from platform after platform that you should not waste your vote or consider it lightly. But if you're in India and at the receiving end of these messages, you're part of a wicked, wicked, wicked joke.

A recent TV campaign in India went to the extent of reminding the viewer that neither he/she nor his/her vote is on sale in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. I don't know about you, but I don't like to mention the human soul and a button on a machine in the same breath, especially for the same reason. To compare the two like this is unacceptable in my opinion.

Far from being sacred, your Lok Sabha vote carries little mundane meaning to begin with. I don't mean this in the sense that your favorite candidate might not win in your constituency even when you vote, or in the sense that the marginal utility of an individual vote is negligible, but in a much deeper sense that is peculiar to India.

Let's say your favorite candidate does win in your constituency and you're actually very happy to have voted for him or her. Does that mean he or she will represent you, truly? Will he or she take your voice to the Parliament? No. Most MPs don't even speak up. They're not exactly shown the red carpet and welcomed to speak in their own language, and even when they speak in one of the two official foreign languages to most Indians - English or Hindi - to the best of their abilities, their party high-commands decide what they should speak about, not you. There's very little time left after all the ceremonial pandemonium and what gets discussed, to say the least, falls short of being a faithful reproduction of the voice of your soul. The parties in control of the Parliament would like you to believe that it's a faithful reproduction of the voice of India's soul, whatever that means, and it's your mistake if that soul it's not the same as yours.

The voices of entire linguistic peoples, and consequently the MPs that they send to the Parliament, don't exactly matter for a bill to be passed in the Parliament of India. For example, even if all the MPs from my state, Karnataka, were to absent themselves from the Parliament forever, they wouldn't exactly be missed. They're an insignificant minority occupying a little over five percent of the total number of seats and it's untrue that if they speak the voice of truth it will get heard nevertheless. The insignificance of our MPs must be multiplied tenfold by the fact that Kannada is the language of a lesser god in the Parliament, and a further tenfold when you realize that the Kannadiga voice is forced to be the voice of the Hindi-speaking north-Indian upper-caste members by virtue of most MPs from Karnataka being subservient foot-soldiers of either the BJP or the Congress. And all this, of course, applies not only to Kannadigas but to most other Indians who elect candidates belonging to these two parties to the Lok Sabha.

It follows from the above that your vote matters: not so much to you if you really think about it, but to the Hindi-speaking north-Indian upper-caste coterie, split into two camps, which wants to make every decision for you. So, will you go ahead and 'exercise your sacred democratic right' blindly or will you think of changing this flawed system? Will you go ahead and choose who among the 'others' will rule you by describing it as self-rule, or will you think of how to bring true self-rule? Will you simply re-chant the mantra that your vote matters, or will you think of what needs to be done to really make it that?

First Published: April 3, 2014, 2:36 PM IST

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