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Are by elections tampering democracy?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/9/2021 2:40:54 PM IST

 Derived from the Greek demokratia, which was coined from demos (“people”) and kratos ( “rule”) in the middle of the 5th century, to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, the system of operation of democracy or the prevalence of democracy is the most sought after administrative ruling by most of the countries in the modern era. According to Anthony Arblaster, democracy is a situation where power and authority ultimately lies with the people. Democracy ensures that the ones vested with the power are accountable to the people who entrusted the powers upon them.

Speaking of the largest democratic country of the world, India, it is really peculiar to see the discourse of Indian democracy over the years especially when we consider India to be once a land of rulers and emperors. Indian democracy after independence has always been strengthened by the process of free and fair elections to elect their representatives for proper governance of the country. However, if we consider the Indian scenario, the voting process in India is a complex one which occurs after every five years at different levels. The word ‘complex’ has been intentionally used to describe the election process to focus on the fact that people’s accumulated emotions, human resources, financial aspects, internal security etc are all taken into consideration whenever the preparation starts for conducting elections. In fact, the pre preparations of elections begin much sooner which people often don’t realize or even if they do they fail to express their dissatisfaction regarding the hullabaloo related to it because of an ongoing monotonous system of operation in the state of affairs. 

The conspicuous fact is that a constituency often has a lot of issues and problems which are directly related to people’s predicaments or dilemmas while thriving in that particular constituency, as a result of which people expect a lot from their elected leaders, or wait for a long duration of 5 years to vote and elect the right leaders to address their unsolved issues. That is the reason the process of elections and voting also has an emotional attribute related to it, and in democracy people’s contentment and satisfaction always has to be ensured at any cost.

However, there are certain aspects related to the system of elections and voting which act as a barrier in the proportional movement of democracy and people’s contentment towards it. A deep analysis of the barriers in the total establishment of democracy brings forth the concept of By Elections. The same By Elections which the state of Assam would be conducting right after a few months of conducting the general state elections. 

A By election is an election that is held to choose a new member of parliament when a member has resigned or died. Whereas in the aforesaid definition of By elections, the later being an unfortunate situation, the former on the other hand has become a trend to manipulate the loopholes of the provision of by election in order to gain excessive power. This can be opined from the current scenario of Assam, where a few of the MLA’s have resigned from the parties they have been elected from only to join that party which is currently in power.

This emerging trend even though not constitutionally invalid, but destroys the faith bestowed by the voters upon their leaders, especially when the elected leaders resign from their post and join another party within just a few months from the main elections. This can be concluded from the fact that voters elect a particular leader based on their individual ideology or their party ideology and when there is a sudden change in the ideology of the leaders, it is a kind of betrayal to the voters, who vote with a lot of expectation and anticipation. The provision of by election used by certain leaders to gain more powers also harasses the government employees who have to work day and night to ensure proper conduct of the elections and most importantly the voters who stand in long queues in sun or rain to vote for them. Moreover, when there is a frequent change in the ideology of the leaders and most of the time is wasted in conducting by elections, a leader won’t get much time to adapt to the new party and also carry forward the idea of progress and development of a particular constituency, because a period of five years is too less to bring about some massive development. Hence, by elections entertained for personal benefit is indirectly a big threat to people’s hopes, expectations and the concept of democracy in the longer run and it also questions the moral obligations and ethos of a politician. By elections also leads to the wastage of public money as well which could have been used to develop different sectors of the government as well, for the greater benefit of the people. Therefore considering these perspectives we need to question: Isn’t by elections directly or indirectly tampering democracy at large?

Considering the fact that the Indian anti defection law is intended to strengthen the pillars of Indian parliamentary democracy, by ceasing unprincipled and iniquitous political defections and also to prevent the examples of evil or mischief of political perfidy for materialistic and individualistic benefits or other similar considerations, the growing trend of the by elections somewhere down the line nullifies the basic structure of the Anti Defection law. Therefore, the laws need to be more stringent to tackle certain politicians’ opportunistic mindset and also to uphold the faith of the voters upon participatory democracy.

More often than not a democratic republic is expected to arrive at a mutual consent but in complex democracies like India which is uneven to a great extent, it is difficult to frame a consensus, and the same holds true for the perspectives regarding the necessity and the misuse of by elections. Hence some changes must be made at the earliest so as to not only limit the politicians but also to ensure that by elections are organized only when there is an absolute necessity, keeping in mind the intentions of the politicians.

Bishaldeep Kakati (advocate, Gauhati High Court) & Bagmita Borthakur (Pursuing MA Political Science, Pondicherry Central University)

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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