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Millennium Post

Voting is both a right and a duty

Interestingly, political figures from different political camps, such as Hamid Ansari, Narendra Modi and LK Advani, are united on this idea, which certainly looks like the next step in taking forward the measures needed to suitably upgrade and further democratise the vote-casting system. Advani’s advocating of Narendra Modi’s suggestion that compulsory voting be made a law, so as to transform voting from a mere right to a citizen’s duty to further bolster the apparatus of democracy and republic, harks back to the Gujarat CM’s attempt to pass the legislation in his home state twice but which did not see the light of the day because it couldn’t obtain the assent of the governor. Evidently, compulsory voting is bound to shake up the electoral processes, since the problem of vote loss due to lack of access, interest or option on the part of the voters, would be practically eliminated. Moreover, the universal and constitutionally-guaranteed right of franchise is too valuable to be squandered at the altar of mismanagement and other electoral inadequacies, and the Election Commission should entrust the municipal and other local bodies to ensure that filling up the ballot box is not a compromised affair. Along with NOTA, what we need with immediate effect is trying to devise an alternative to first past the post and make voting mandatory, so that better electoral representation is achieved at every stage and phase of the national and assembly polls.

Evidently, along with NOTA, compulsory voting is bound to substantially expand the participatory reach of the polls, making the process more vibrant, representative and actually reflecting the mood of the nation. Strengthening the democracy as well as the republic, compulsory voting could also usher in large-scale poll upgrades in terms of making electronic voting machines available in the remotest corner of the country as well as ensuring that citizens above the voting age have the necessary facilities to cast their votes without suffering undue pressure or harassment from any political party. Moreover, as commentators have already suggested, mandatory voting would bring down the skyrocketing election expenditures that parties undertake in order to lure voters to cast their vote. This could also result in parties taking seriously the election manifestos and later could concentrate on keeping the poll promises, fearing a negative vote in the next poll session. However, the flipside of compulsory voting is that often demographic dividend would get primacy over and above the actual and transparent mechanisms of honoring the ballot box. For example, although superficially the political views of every adult citizen would be taken into account in the mandatory franchise system, high voter turnout might not guarantee that citizens exercise their intellectual faculties to select the right candidate, especially if they are poor and uneducated. While the SC had frowned upon the culture of freebies earlier, to make the polling process truly productive, awareness campaigns empowering citizens to take informed decisions are equally important
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