[email protected]: Democracy & Polls In 2047
Would we still have polling stations? Probably not, as the smart phone will be in every hand
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For the last 70 years, vibrant electoral democracy has been the abiding identity of India. A fiercely independent Election Commission was the greatest gift of the fathers of the Constitution to India. The special importance they gave to elections is evident from the fact that the six Articles laying the foundation of the electoral system (324-29) were actually promulgated on 26 November 1949, exactly two months before the full Constitution came into operation. The Election Commission of India was founded on 25 January 1950 — a day before the Republic of India was born. Ever since, the ECI has delivered all elections on the dot even in the most trying circumstances, like Assam (1982-83), Punjab (1992), Jammu & Kashmir (1987–89, 1996, 2002 and 2008).
Diversity is India’s most distinguishing feature with all major religions of the world and distinct ethnic cultures coexisting in harmony and speaking in 200 different languages. The geographic diversities present their own logistical challenges. Yet unity in diversity best describes India. Despite some threats, this phenomenon will survive like it has for 5,000 years.
What will democracy look like in 2047? In general, more of the same, with some unavoidable organic changes, of course. Since 1977, breakaway factions led by local satraps have been an increasing phenomenon. Growing local aspirations and federalist concerns will lead to creation of more regional political parties and strengthening of the existing ones. Coalitions will be the rule and one-party government a rare exception. One possible scenario, in contrast, is that the country will have a presidential form of government which is being increasingly debated — and attempted.
Voting technology would have undergone a drastic change. In 1947, more than 84 per cent Indians used thumb impressions, in 2047, hundred per cent would have gone back to it — though for a different reason. Not because of illiteracy, but because biometrics would have taken over. One thumb impression would be enough both to authenticate the identity of the voters and record their votes. Duplicate and bogus voters would be totally eliminated.
Would we still have polling stations? Probably not, as the smart phone will be in every Indian’s hand, and by then would have enough security features. I’m not sure how voting at gunpoint and bribery of the voters (the two reasons discouraging the EC from introducing Internet voting) would be checked. The smart phone would lead to a phenomenal increase in voter percentage, though not above 90 per cent. The voting age would probably be reduced to 16 years. Educational qualifications and the maximum age for legislators would have been adopted.
Pessimistically, the hold of criminals and moneybags/corporates would have increased as reforms to check these have been constantly resisted by all political parties. It is futile to expect them to solve the problems, unless the Supreme Court forces their hands, as it has done in the past to understate electoral reforms. Political parties would not have come under the RTI as they are unitedly opposing it, and no relief can be expected from the Supreme Court either, as it itself has been avoiding its operation in the judiciary. In fact, the RTI itself may get diluted and vanish without a whimper. Women’s reservation for Parliament and Vidhan Sabhas would continue to be pipe dreams.
The writer is a former Chief Election Commissioner of India and author of
An Undocumented Wonder — The Making of the Great Indian Election
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