Elections in Rotary — boon or bane

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A prominent industrial socialite once asked me: ‘Why do you have elections in Rotary? After all you are a social service organisation and elections only create divisions and negative mindset.’ I proudly replied that we Rotarians believe in democracy and our elections are friendly referendums where candidates understand that they are volunteering for pro bono service assignments and winning/ losing does not affect their social credibility or self-esteem. Rotarians true to their service ethos are above negativity.

I am not so sure anymore. Recent electoral upheavals in various zonal districts, and a plethora of complaints the process generated, have severely shaken our confidence in the purported ethical behaviour of senior Rotarians. We need to introspect and raise many questions to ourselves. What are we in Rotary for? For giving material and mental succour to challenged communities or just winning elections? Do we practise what we preach?

The recent turn of events in our zones tells us it is time for the alarm bells to start ringing. Where are we heading? Are we to become like divided political parties in complete contradiction of core Rotary values which foster unity in diversity and beckon us to recognise our inner soul qualities of being intrinsically fulfilled, blessed by abundance and contentment and to share with the less fortunate around us?

There seem to be more questions than answers. A wake up call is around the corner.

Let us debate, discuss and propose solutions and firmly resolve to evolve mechanisms leading to elections in an ambience of knowing that we, as blessed and fulfilled Rotarians, do not need to win all elections at a cost which destroys our volunteer moorings and effective diverse collective leadership.

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Dr Mahesh Kotbagi
RI Director, 2021–23

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