Of election-obsessed Indians and an evolving system

New Delhi, March 27 (IANS) Indians seem to be ‘homoelectionus’ in that they love to remain in election mode perennially, knowing well that elections are the bedrock of a democracy which India chose to be more than 75 years ago.
Adding weight to this is ‘The Power of the Ballot: Travail and Triumph in the Elections’ (Bloomsbury) by journalist Anil Maheshwari and advocate Vipul Maheshwari that meticulously traces the history of elections in the country since 1952, the first general elections.
In the endeavour to rewind the story of elections, punctuated by anecdotes, the authors have made serious attempts to point out the apprehension of lurking dangers to elections, sometimes genuine, sometimes magnified by the affected parties in the long run of holding elections with the help of technology, come what may. India’s willingness to adapt to new technology to hold elections in this vast country is the reason for its success. Many more milestones have to be erected in its onward journey. There is no reason to hail the prophets of doom.
The authors also suggest that India’s party system may appear crumbling as every election now is a plebiscite on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who continues to dominate the political landscape.
“The recent developments may herald the arrival of the presidential form of system to replace the Westminster model which is decaying but the fact remains that there is no alternative to the elections and the robust elections machinery which we have built over the last seven decades,” they write.
The book covers the state assembly elections in Bihar and West Bengal in the ominous shadow of Covid-19. It was an unprecedented challenge in the form of an unseen, unknown and silent enemy that had to be fought in the course of upholding the democratic process of elections. And all stakeholders came out with flying colours. The polling percentage recorded a slight improvement despite the grave challenge and restrictions.
Engaging descriptions of the strange phenomenon of ‘dhartipakads’, the candidates who love to contest each and every election; cases of persons losing the elections by a single vote (C.P. Joshi in Rajasthan), criminalisation of elections, money flowing like water in elections and failure to contain the malaise, among others, have been discussed with objectivity in the book.
Detailing the case of the EVMs, the favourite whipping boys for losers in the electoral process, the authors recall an Irish proverb, “A man who holds good cards would never say if they were dealt wrong”.
The book makes attempts to deal with all the possible aspects of elections such as the move for compulsory voting, e-voting as well as the ongoing discussions about ‘one nation, one election’, an increasing number of voters preferring NOTA as well as the judicial challenges to the elections.
“The book demystifies the jargon, bridges the misleading gap between theoretical law and practical reality, adds sufficient satire, wit and irreverence, mixes it with some lampooning and produces a spicy whole that is appetising, tasty and wholesomely fulfilling,” says leading lawyer and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
“They have recorded the past, present and future of democracy in India in a captivating way. Their gripping anecdotal style makes this book a compulsive read. It has solid content and is a collector’s item,” says former Chief Election Commissioner S. Y. Qureshi.

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