Democracy is a beautiful word

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readApr 15, 2019

Source : Young voters in India will transform the country

Synopsis: India is holding the election to choose its national government to govern the world’s largest democracy where over 900 million voters will decide who will govern them. The scale of this massive election boggles the mind in its scope and the implications for the 1.3 billion people, many of them the first time voters. It is the largest voting exercise in the world and is considered generally a free and fair process.

I know that the democratic process of electing a new government varies from country to country. Even the most repressive country like North Korea is known as the Democratic Republic of Korea where people are not given their right to choose their leader because only one person appears as the choice with no opposition.

In other countries they follow their own system where the popular vote does not count and only the Electoral College chooses their leader who may have gotten less votes than his opponent but still becomes the president like in the United States.

He then goes on to appoint some people as his ministers ( called secretaries ) who then run various departments that are called ministries elsewhere so each country has its own system and methods of election that may or may not take people’s wishes into consideration in forming a government.

In a truly democratic system like in India, people do not elect their leader directly but choose the members of the parliament so the political party that wins the majority of the parliamentary seats then gets the right to form the government. The leader of that party then becomes the prime minister of the country with solid majority parliament member’s support.

Please read my blog What is democracy in this context.

It is interesting to note that in such a democracy that is found in India, every minister who becomes the part of the new government becomes so only when he wins the election in a nationwide vote so he comes to the government with people’s mandate and is accountable to them while in other countries where they are appointed by a chosen leader are only accountable to their president like in the United States and not to the voting public. Such ministers or the secretaries do not have to be elected by the people so different countries have different system that may have their own reasons for them.

India is therefore called the true democracy where the people decide who will become their leader and who will become their ministers at the state as well as the national level. While electing their national government, people also choose the state governments. Because of the very large number of voters ( over 900 million ) , India conducts the election over a month long period in seven steps so it is staggered that allows the Election Commission to prepare the voting booths, security and mobilize all the resources at their disposal to make the whole operation smooth and peaceful.

Now watch this video to see how India conducts its election

The following video will show how India elects its leader

Source : U tube video on how India chooses its Prime Minister

It means transporting thousands of electronic voting machines to thousands of polling stations nationwide; prepare the voter’s list for each station where the voter presents his voting ID to get his or her right to vote, votes and gets an indelible ink stain on his finger.

It prevents flying voters or repeat voting by some voters at the behest of some political parties who may resort to dirty tactics to gain votes when they feel that they are about to lose. The paperless voting system in India also prevents ballot stuffing thus reducing fraud and illegal practices found in other countries.

The recorded votes in the electronic voting machines are then electronically uploaded to the master computer somewhere where the super computers count the votes nationwide and tabulate in blistering speed and announce the winners and losers in a matter of a few days after the completion of the last step.

Source : Google photo of the electronic voting system in India

The election commission ( EC ) is a very powerful tool that keeps the election honest, free of fraud and ballot tampering that some politicians may practice. The EC also has the power to remove or transfer erring policemen or voting officers who are found to be dishonest or fail to perform their mandated duties and can even disqualify a candidate who violates the EC rules of total ban on all forms of electioneering, advertising and posting in any media any campaign material during a certain period.

Recently the EC stopped the release of a movie made on the Prime Minister Modi because of this ban. Once EC asked Indira Gandhi why she had used a government helicopter for her campaign before the election although I see now almost all the candidates use helicopters or planes for faster travel, India being a very big country. The EC makes sure that no one uses public money for his campaign so the candidates have to use their own money that their party accumulates for it from donations.

I have lived in many countries where I have noticed corrupt practices of the politicians and their supporters to influence the vote in their favor that may even include killing their opponents or intimidation by their goons. I have seen the flying voters, repeat voters and ballot stuffing using paper ballots or even fake ballots. I have seen how some politicians openly buy their votes from the illiterate and poor voters by giving them money or food or tee shirts and other gifts and I have seen tremendous political violence before the election or during the campaign period in some countries.

In strict Islamic countries like Iran, a voter cannot cast his or her vote in secret so the government candidates know who has voted for or against them so people are afraid to vote freely according to their own will but Iran still claims it to be democratic.

In North Korea everybody is required to vote for the sole candidate so people are afraid to vote against him for the fear of retribution. In China it is the same yet they call their system democratic.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo that was ruled by a tyrant and despotic leader for quite some time, there was nothing democratic about the way he was chosen. He is dead now but the country still has many problems,

So I think that democracy is still a work in progress in many countries where the voters still face many challenges, where their right to vote in secret is not observed, where voter intimidation takes place, where the opposition is threatened or intimidated, where the pre-election violence is done by the candidates, where polling frauds are common and where the polling is neither fair nor free.

But I also think that a free and fair election process that is practiced in some advanced democratic countries such as India also depends upon the maturity of voters, their awareness of the national and regional issues , the manifestos of the candidates and their present or past track records.

It is very difficult to fool the voters there who demand the proof from the candidates of their past achievements and how and how much they have helped their constituencies. Simple promises made by the politicians just to get the votes does not work anymore because the voters are more educated than the previous generation who are not afraid to ask direct questions the politicians may find hard to answer.

The massive proliferation of TV channels that field thousands of microphone toting and fast talking reporters all over the country even in remote areas now give people a voice that are heard and transmitted over to their studios instantly via satellite technology. It makes people more aware of the issues instantly all over the country so they can watch on TV the analysis of the voting trend, the views of the common people and their demands, their needs and their aspirations that put pressure of the candidates to deliver on those promises that they make so easily during their campaign.

In other countries where the voters are mostly illiterate or with minimal education are easily swayed by the glib politicians who even dance and sing in front of their voters if they demand because such voters are not aware of the issues on which the election is fought or they do not consider them important enough to have live debate.

So the democratic process develops if the voters become mature and more educated who can then discuss the issues in town hall meetings directly with the candidates and demand straight answers from them instead of asking them to sing or dance for them.

I see a trend in many countries that have suffered under a one man dictatorship for a long time or under a tyrant who does not wish to leave power toward a more open and free democracy where people can freely exercise their will to form a government of their choice.

They make consistent demands through protests, sit ins, civil disobedience and other means to put pressure on the dictators to make their country more democratic and often end up paying a heavy price.

Remember the brave Chinese in Tian An Men Square who only wanted freedom and democracy and were killed in large numbers by the soldiers? Remember how the opposition leader in Zimbabwe was beaten senseless by the police when he had challenged the autocratic president there?

The Arab Spring that spread through many Muslim countries after the Tunisia revolution uprooted many long time dictators that paved the way for a freer society and more personal liberty.

Source : Algerians protesting for free and fair election in their coumtry

I had not thought the Algerians will also ask for such freedom but recently they have forced a long time president to step down and have called for fresh election there. They are still protesting on the streets there every day to bring about changes that will bring true democracy to them. It should be noted here that the present generation of Algerians are more educated and aware of their national issues than the previous ones so millions of young voters vote for change in their government.

Source : Google photo of Sudanese people protesting against dictator’s rule

Just last week the Sudanese people have forced the longtime dictator of that country to step down and are now asking for the election of a new democratic government.

So I see a trend toward a more democratic and freer society in many countries that are now increasingly demanding a voice in the governance of their countries. That is the true meaning of democracy where people and only people decide who will be their leader and how their chosen government will meet their aspirations.

With the introduction of paperless voting machines and electronic transmissions of results to the central computer somewhere, the election in India has definitely made progress toward a free and fair election nationwide although some incidence of poll violence still occurs in some places.

What I also see now is the curse of the technology in the hands of common people. Almost everyone has a cell phone and can see the latest updates on election or any other news so the internet is inundated by fake news by some people who make mischief. They upload fake news that the Prime minister of Pakistan has just been killed or a prominent Indian political candidate has been assassinated. The social media like facebook or whatsapp etc have been deleting fake news but the bad people spreading fake news make more and confuse people.

They publish compromising photos of politicians by doctoring the photos using photoshop but often get caught by anyone who looks keenly and finds out the photo shopped photos done very unprofessionally. These fake news and photoshopped photos can be deleted but they do some damage before they are deleted.

Now anyone with bad intent can upload fake videos in U tube to mislead people so one has to be aware of such mischief and delete them or ignore them. They should definitely not share them with anyone.

What is happening in India and other countries where they have a working democracy is that people are increasingly demanding accountability from their politicians and are holding them to the promises they had made to the people to get elected.

So the Indian government has filed many corruption charges against the politicians who are now seeking fresh mandate so many are facing long court battles. Some of them may end up in jails and their monies and properties confiscated by the judiciary.

The Income tax department makes frequent raids when they get the information that some corrupt politicians are hiding black money in their house to finance their campaigns. Recently they have uncovered millions of Rupees of undeclared money in many houses in many parts of India and frozen their assets.

The democracy is still a work in progress but I see now a trend toward a more open and transparent society in many parts of the world where people are becoming more aware of their democratic rights and are demanding the accountability from their politicians.

India is a good example where people are chasing out corrupt people from their offices through their ballots and are electing honest people who are then putting dishonest people in jail and recovering the stolen money of the people.

This work will not be complete until governments are chosen by the people, for the people and of the people everywhere to make the democracy a beautiful word in a true sense.

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