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Thursday, April 17

The Impostor and Impostors

I am not a registered voter in Bangalore.

There. I said it. I am sitting here diddling my thumb as others around me go and elect their government.

In the 14 years since I qualified as a voter, I have voted once. As it happens, shortly before I turned 18, I left home and have lived in hostels, other cities, other countries ever since, never remaining in one place for more than 4 years. Being politically aware at the national and state level but mostly feeling as an outsider to the proceedings in immediate vicinity. I voted in the last LS elections because I happened to be in Lucknow on the election day.

In 2009, When I looked up the candidates I had to choose between, I was stuck. For me, Lucknow meant Vajpayee, someone I had come to admire. Given that he was a top level leader, his views on variety of issues were well known. But by 2009, he was no longer around. As his nominee, we had Lal ji Tandon from BJP - someone I had never liked. Congress had Rita Bahuguna in fray. Hardly knew anything about her. There were other candidates from SP, BSP (Nakul Dubey?). Nobody seemed particularly engaging or worth choosing. Whomever I voted for, seemed like a compromise. The choice was an illusion.

Come 2014, things looked different. Many people I admired for their views and stands on issues were in the fray. Or let me put it another way. The important part is not that I admired them or agreed with them. The important part is that I knew their views and stands. In the party driven politics, you broadly know the contours of ideology, you hear from the top leaders and spokespersons but that is it. For example, I had no inkling about how Lal ji Tandon proposed to make trade offs between development and environment when developing Lucknow. What were Rita Bahuguna's view about women's issues? Did she think they should remain in house to be safe?

It is strange when you stop to think about it - 200 odd MPs of a party, coming from different backgrounds, different places, representing different electorate, all agreeing on every single issue and legislation. Voting for a party is like those package deals - you either buy into everything or nothing. Not only that, given the history, elected MPs will change their views as convenient. Since they are only judged based on the party ideology, they don't need to justify anything - they can demand death penalty in one case and a pardon in another, pointing to the party line. They can breath fire against FDI in retail when in opposition but welcome it once in government. It is only occasionally, only when a stronger identity collides with the party identity, that we see some action cutting across party lines. Example: Telangana issue.

So I find 2014 to be a welcome change from the last time. I would like to see more and more of our candidates acquire more personality and not appear merely as a stand in for the party. (BTW, not the Pappu Yadav and Mukhtar Ansari kind of personality! Unfortunately mafia dons seem to be the only ones willing to break party ranks at will.) Once we have a better set of elected representatives, perhaps they will have enough willpower to make necessary amends to Anti-defection laws and make themselves free to represent their electorate in the real sense.

Even if you support a more presidential government, you have to realize that in presidential form, you get to elect a president AND a representative. So there is that protection. In a representative democracy, without checks and balances needed for a presidential democracy, if the representatives get compromised, we are done.

And so while till now, it didn't pinch me much when a election passed by, it is pinching this year. So as soon as these elections are over, I am going to go and register my name in the voter's list and push for better candidates with my vote.

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