Monday, May 11, 2009

Cast your vote, or face the consequences..

"Being an Indian it is our duty to come out and vote," said Aamir Khan. "People expect politicians to solve problems immediately. But it's not that easy. It takes time. That's why we should vote and give a chance to better people," said Shahrukh Khan. Added veteran actor Rishi Kapoor: “It is our basic right to vote, so people should vote.” ( Whaaaaaa? QED?)

From atop his lofty moral pedestal, actor Madhavan pontificates, “It is the duty of every Indian citizen to vote. Those who don’t vote ought to be punished. Moreover, when they don’t even take the trouble of walking up to the booth to cast their votes, they should not be allowed to criticise the politicians,” or words to that effect. I read this in TOI and am quoting him from memory.

Madhavan, of course, has every right to try to persuade his fellow citizens to cast their votes, just as he had every right to preach to fellow energy consumers, some months back, on the need to exercise restraint, in the interest of mitigating climate change. The fact that he preached thus to an audience of 200 elite people who had come in 200 different cars, to the chandelier-lit, air-conditioned, room of the five-star hotel is another matter.

But, he has absolutely no basis to say that it is our duty to vote. The Indian constitution guarantees several rights, but does not make it mandatory for the citizens to discharge any of the fundamental duties. In fact, the ‘duty to vote’ is not even listed down in the section on fundamental duties, which reads more like a wish list. So, I have a right to vote, without a corresponding duty to vote. And, of course, if I don’t vote, that doesn’t take away my right to criticise the elected Govt.

It is, of course, desirable that every citizen should vote and take part in the process of electing the right people. But this is not the same as saying that it is everyone’s duty to vote. The distinction must be clear,


Mambalam Mani said...

I don't quite agree. In this context, duty must be interpreted as a responsibility (well, duty always is). We can't have a democracy where it is 'desirable' that the people vote if they want to just pay the taxes annually and don't care who is the ruling party but complain when the rains flood the roads.
The Indian constitution (or the 'wish list' you linked) does not explicitly say all roads are for the public and it is the within the rights of an individual to use it. But neither does it say it is the duty of an individual to keep them clean.
And it makes more sense to preach energy conservation to a gathering of Glitterati who come on 200 cars than to a bunch of people gathered under a banyan tree.

Usha said...

That explains it - for a moment I did believe all this talk advocating it as our duty.. The best thing about this country is that we don't have any duties - fundamental or otherwise.

Rachna said...

Come on! Rights come with responsibilities. What do you achieve by non voting. I just cannot understand how not voting is going to make anything better - duty or no duty.

Raj said...

Mambalam Mani : I know I am labouring the point. But we need to understand the distinction.The word 'duty' carries a different connotation. Duties of a citizen ought to be defined or stated somewhere .Otherwise, it is just your word against mine.

Your other point on 'five star hotels'. Come on, someone pontificating about global warming will have more credibility if he doesn't burn excessive carbon himself?

Usha, we don't need to something out of a sense of duty. It can because we want to, not because we ought to.

Rachna: Note the difference. I am not advocating that 'we should abstain from voting" or that 'we should not vote". All I am saying is that we have a choice of 'not voting'. In the same breath, I am also conceding that it would be good if more people can be convinced to go out and vote.

Balajisblog said...

Raj - Though long ago I lost my faith in the power of one...I went out and voted yesterday.
There is something obscene about many famous personalities sticking out their index finger....I choked over my cuppa this morning when I opened the Hindu....Sneha, Sarath...and oh My God..even Sachu declaring "out"..! Balaji

Rachna said...

Raj - I think one always does have a right not to do something. It is a free country after all. But one has to look at the repercussions of that action. Besides, I believe that one has an option of registering a non vote at the booth. At least that would ensure that one has expressed one's rejection of all candidates standing. But, sitting at home achieves nothing. I really do fail to see your point. Yes - one pays the taxes so one has the right to criticize the government too. But then mere words will that bring about any change. That will be as good as the politicians who promise and do not do anything. I would say if you expect change, be a part of that change. I see that you list down the right to not vote - sure it is there, my point was judiciously use the rights and keep the responsibilities in mind too !

Raj said...

balaji: You pervert,you can find innuendoes in anything!

Rachna: I see your point. I would also be happy to see an engaged citizenry, where everyone takes part in the voting process on his/her volition and because they passionately believe that their vote will make a difference. Not because they are duty-bound. In Australia where it is compulsory to vote, some reluctant voters come and cast what is known as a 'donkey vote". That's what will happen if we don't have a buy-in in the first place.