Democracies and the Vote

Of the 64 national elections across the world in 2024, two are attracting much attention: the one in the largest democracy, India; and the other in the world’s oldest democracy, the United States.

Representative Image / Facebook/Election Commission of India

In less than a week, India would have started its elections process, the first phase of which will begin on April 19 and finally conclude on June 1. If there is one thing that people in democracies look forward to it is in exercising their franchise guaranteed in the constitution. 

Irrespective of ideologies and political party affiliations, people in India look forward to lining up at polling stations, in some instances travelling long distances by foot to have that indelible black dot on their finger as proof of their fulfilling their citizen obligation. 

Of course there are those who choose to stay away from voting for one reason or another, one of which being that it did not matter for politics and the process was going to be the same no matter what. And this is the apathetic group that non-governmental groups particularly target stressing that the vote does matter, especially in democracies. 

In totalitarian systems the elections process is a sham and a foregone conclusion with dissenters meeting a fate that has long been determined. This is all the more the reason why elections in democracies come under close scrutiny, both from within and without.

One count has it that in 2024 there are 64 national elections across the world. Yet only two are attracting much attention: the one in the largest democracy, India; and the other in about six months in the world’s oldest democracy, the United States. 

In India and during the run up parties have had their opportunity to get at one another, from policies to governance. And the Model Code of Conduct has meant that among other things, unaccounted money has been a legitimate source of concern, with authorities seizing huge amounts of cash from persons unable to give proper sources. Buying votes with cash is something the country has to come to terms with just as how slowly elections by and large do not witness ballot stuffing and booth capturing of the past. 

The challenges facing India are indeed enormous, the first of which on the development front on bridging the vast gaps between the haves and the have nots. Eradicating poverty cannot continue to remain a political slogan for long and merely a vote catching gimmick. 

In the search for rapid economic development, policy makers would have to be acutely aware of the vast areas of the country that are either under-developed or unevenly developed. And there is the realm of education where the gaps are simply unbelievable between government aided schools, colleges and Universities, and private run institutions leading to elitism and an unhealthy environment.

The search for fine tuning cannot miss the obvious: making India a better place to live and a country that is truly devoid of toxic rhetoric cutting across religious and caste lines. Harmony is something that cannot stay with lip service but must truly come from within. 

If India is to pride itself as a nation with strong secular credentials, the onus is on all parties to ensure that it is so. That is the real meaning of a democracy and the vote.








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