Few days ago, I had received queries from youngsters (especially first time voters) who were in a dilemma over whom to vote: Local MP candidate or National PM candidate. I tried to explain them the scope of MLAs & MPs and finally gave an open ended conclusion that it depends on which one you prioritize:
After publishing that article, I received counter questions from readers (this time from experienced voters) who were of the opinion that one must always vote for the best MP irrespective of the party. It is perfectly understandable when seen from an emotional point of view, and since we always prefer merit, it is obvious to choose the most meritorious (best) among the given options. Having said that, I would disagree with such an opinion because democracy is not so straightforward and requires some analysis at both personal level as well as national level.
Lets refresh some basics of Lok Sabha Elections using some analogies for understanding this complex system.
For a Lok Sabha Election, every party releases a manifesto which is basically “A declaration of the intentions, motives, views & promises of a political party”. i.e It sets the expectation of citizens from the party if voted to power. As an analogy, it is something similar to a product brochure which briefly explains what can be expected out of the product. In the case of a product like cellphone, it will tell you whether the phone is GSM or CDMA. Whether it has single SIM or dual SIM. Whether it has internal memory or external memory and so on.
Similarly, in the case of a political party, a manifesto briefly gives an idea of the views/vision/promises of the party. It might be a communist party or a socialist party. It might give an idea of it’s economic policy. Whether it supports FDI or not. It might give an idea of it’s policy on subsidies. Whether it promises free food or whether it provides job opportunities so that people can earn their own food. and so on. It might mention hundreds of things related to several policies including environmental issues, education, taxes etc.
Following are infographics of key points of the manifestos released by some of the major parties.
After going through a manifesto of a political party, one can get an idea of what the party stands for and what it can offer to the people when voted to power. Just like how different people have different expectations from a phone due to their requirements or due to existing situation (One might want only a GSM phone because he is already using a GSM SIM card), similarly different people have different expectations from a Govt due to their pre-conceived notions or existing situation (One might want a Govt which promises bullet train network for transport while another might want a Govt which promises subsidies in Air travel). That is the reason, every voter must spend a few mins to read the summary (if not the whole document) and finally identify which party suits his political views & expectation.
Now comes the practical scenario (Scenario 1: Personal level).
Suppose you conclude that a party named “Lion” syncs pretty well with your political views and expectations and you would want to vote for it. In your constituency, you like the MP candidate representing “Zebra” party because he is highly qualified, has been successfully running a company in the past 30 years (and hence proven to be responsible as well). But the problem is that his party’s views & expectations are totally out of sync from your views. For example, you are against reservations but this party talks about reservations (even within private sectors). This is similar to liking a CDMA phone because it looks great but you actually want a GSM phone (because you have been using a GSM SIM card and thousands of your friends already have your number).
Lets now talk about another practical scenario (Scenario 2: National level).
As you would agree, every phone company likes to provide a phone which is useful for the customer. i.e Everybody has good intentions. But different phones work differently. One needs a GSM SIM card, while another needs a CDMA chip. If you buy a CDMA phone and try to put a GSM SIM, it does not work and hence both the phone as well as SIM become useless.
Similarly, every party wants to do good for the people. But they differ from each other in the way they want to do good (one might want to give free food and one might want to give job opportunities). So, here comes the issue of coalition. When voters choose a local MP candidate without looking at the big picture, the final result can end up in a fractured mandate i.e There would be few MPs from one party, few MPs from another party and so on without any party getting a majority. Suppose 2 or more parties form a coalition but have differing views, then the Govt can literally come to standstill because they will always oppose each other. In this case, suppose the party which wants to give free food forms coalition with another party which does not believe in giving free food, then it will be opposed. And when the 2nd party wants to provide job opportunities, it might be against the views of the 1st party and hence would be opposed, and it comes to standstill because neither is passed.
Instead, if one party had come to power (lets say the party which promises jobs), atleast one policy would have been fulfilled. But now due to this fractured mandate & volatile coalition, there is neither free food nor job opportunities.
I might sound trivial but everything that I have been saying here are harsh realities and have actually taken place in the past. For example, the Govt which has been ruling us is actually a coalition of several parties with differing views due to which most of the policies were being opposed and the country had to struggle. Moreover, in such coalitions, there are constant threats of disrupting the Govt and causing instability (either due to in-fighting or opposing every move of each other). One such classic example is the Morarji Desai led Janata Party Govt in 1977 which collapsed due to internal contradiction between parties. (It was not exactly a coalition but actually a merger of several parties having different views. In a way, it can be equated to a coalition itself).
Lets consider some recent examples. This excerpt from a recently released book by Dr Manmohan Singh’s adviser says how coalition Govts have been disrupted by Left parties in 1970s, 80s & 90s, due to which Dr Singh was in constant threat and had to compromise national interests for the sake of coalition (Remember his press statements invoking “Coalition Dharma”?)
As we can see from the above scenarios, in the case of former, you are actually voting for something which is against your own views (Would you be fine with voting for someone because he is qualified but talks about reservations in private sector?).
In the case of latter, you are voting for instability. (Would you be fine with a Govt full of highly qualified people but are doing nothing because of “Coalition Dharma”?).
What should you do now? You can do 2 things:
-Read the manifestos of all the parties and find out which one matches your views.
-If you decide on party and if it is certain that it cannot manage to get good number of seats, then it can lead to a fractured mandate and the decade old coalition dharma with corruption, helplessness and instability might again continue. In such a case, check the party with the next best manifesto (according to you) and repeat the exercise. You should be able to slightly compromise your personal interests for the sake of national interests. At the end of the day, it should be a win-win situation for you as well as the nation.
(PM candidate and Party are used interchangeable because a PM candidate represents the party. The PM candidate speaks what is in the party’s manifesto. Hence, in this article, “Vote for a particular PM” has the same meaning as “Vote for that particular party”)
Please note that I am not endorsing any particular party and nor am I asking you to vote for a certain party or a certain MP or PM. These are ideas which might have sounded harsh in 2004 but after seeing how nation has struggled due to coalitions in last 10 years, this advice is practical, based on experience and based on feedback from history.
In a nutshell: Vote for stability & good governance.