Sunday, November 4, 2007

From ballot to sms

Indians have shown immense maturity in exercising their franchise

When I visited the US in 2005, I was impressed to find a person of Indian origin at the Washington’s Dulles International Airport’s immigration desk. I was amazed, as in my own country I’ve yet to see an immigration desk manned by a person of foreign origin. Probably, that’s what sets the US apart from other economies – a truly multi-cultural society, where equal opportunities are available to everybody irrespective of colour, religion, geographic or ethnic background. And that, probably, is why it is not surprising when a Bobby Jindal, an Indian by origin, gets elected as the Governor of Louisiana!

Such feats of multi-cultural and democratic participation are completely unheard of in other parts of the world, wherever democracy prevails. Similar phenomena are also exhibited in countries like UK and Canada, but to a limited extent. Conventionally, it is observed that other democratic countries offer equal opportunities irrespective of any bias, but they are merely limited to unpopular and non-strategic realms. For anything that is popular (requiring people’s mandate) and strategic in nature, it's a straight ‘no! no!’

Juxtaposed against this background, the maturity that Indian democracy has exhibited off late is not only unheard of but also unprecedented and unimaginable. To substantiate my argument, I would like to take the example of the most popular reality shows, which have invited a lot of public participation. It is incredible even to imagine that on Indian channels, in an Indian reality show, aired on Indian prime time and where winners and losers are decided merely by Indian public voting (though voting from international audience is open for some programs, their proportion is relatively smaller), it is talented artists from a foreign country like Pakistan, who are voted through to the finals! It is incredible as something like this is unthinkable in any other country and it is commendable too as it goes on to indicate the impartiality and maturity of Indians, who, when it comes to voting for the deserving winner, have time and again proved to go beyond issues like caste, creed, race and ethnic backgrounds (which otherwise have been the pivots around which Indian democracy revolves). Indeed, it is an amazing feat of Indians to vote for erstwhile undistinguished talents like Rauf Lala from some nondescript mohalla in Karachi or support Amanat Ali from Faisalabad or Mussarat Abbas from Lahore, purely on merit and make them stars, overnight. Though there is no doubt that each one of them possessed immense talent but to recognise and bring them to the forefront, by mere SMS or tele voting, against lots of gutsy national challengers, is far bigger achievement. And this achievement assumes more significance, when the democratic rights of the Indian audience are seen against not any other nation but, ‘Pakistan’!

As we have proved our responsibility and lack of prejudice while exercising our franchise, we should take the same to the next level to elect our governments and set an example for the world. Here is an opportunity to switch from ballot to SMS, making the election process more robust, economical and above all, transparent!


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