What makes India vote? Debate at Jaipur Literature Festival

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Election Commission
Jaipur, Jan 18: Why do Indian citizens vote? Is it hope, peer pressure or incentives or merely political parties which compel them? And what surprises will the voters throw in the forthcoming general elections?

Such questions came in for an animated debate at second day of the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival in an discussion titled 'Why India votes' under 'Democracy Dialogues' series.

"What inspires or compels the Indian citizens to vote? Indian voters are like bags full of surprises, you can never judge their political instincts," politician Manvendra Singh said today.

What inspires or compels the Indian citizens to vote?

In conversation with Singh were Sudhir Chaudhary, Editor Zee News, Mukulika Banerjee, Professor London School of economics and Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author and journalist.

"The Lok Sabha elections held in India is the largest humanly organised event across the world. Our elections are almost carnivals with free 'chutti' (leave), free incentives and blah blah for one particular day. So much of visual pollution," said Banerjee, whose new book "Why India Votes" was published by Routledge last month.

"We criticise our political parties, the functioning of democracy and much more but still Indians turn up to vote in huge numbers, but why?, she questioned. According to Sudhir Chaudhary, the Indian voters were powerful but they remained in a fix to decide what party would benefit the entire nation.

"If you buy Narendra Modi, you get Vasundhra Raje free. If you buy Rahul Gandhi, you get Ashok Gehlot free. How can the voters be sure of one particular decision which can be beneficial to the entire country?" he posed.

The panelist said compulsions including peer and social pressure compelled voters to exercise their franchise. "There is so much of peer pressure to get ink on the finger and it is there even in the villages. So, the voters might not vote for hope or incentives, but only because they had to vote," Mukhopadhyay said.

Panelists said it would be an understatement to dismiss the impact of the social media, which was amply visible in the recent assembly elections, as just limited to urban areas.

"Eighty per cent of my 'Whatsapp' messages are from villages. Technology is everywhere, villagers have smart phones too and they very well know how to use them for their rights," said Singh, an MP from Rajasthan.

The discussion also took notice of the 'None of the Obove' (NOTA) option in electronic voting machines and ballot papers, which was made mandatory by the Supreme Court last year.

"Come 2014, the pressure is building, political parties are turning into NGOs, NGOs into political parties, aam admi turning into leaders and leaders turning into aam admi, you never know the NOTA votes might surprise in the Lok Sabha polls," Chaudhary said.


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