Once again it is time for that opportunity we get only once in five years, our General elections. This time, in the world’s largest electoral exercise, 900 million voters will democratically elect our next government in a seven-phase exercise that is already underway. To a mature and knowledgeable group such as Rotarians and their families, one need hardly stress the importance of every vote. It is an integral part of our Constitution, which has made India a democracy… and what a democracy! In this country, a democratically-elected government can fall just by one vote, during a Trust vote in Parliament. As did the Vajpayee government in 1999 after the AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa withdrew support from the NDA government after just 13 months. Vajpayee stepped down, after making that great speech in Parliament, and returned to power with a greater majority and formed a stable government that completed its full five-year term. A democracy such as ours deserves celebration!
As voters, it is our duty to go out and vote. The complaint often is that the rich or the upper middle classes, or shall we say the ‘chattering classes’, who are very forthright in giving political gnan to the less vocal at fancy parties, do not actually go out and vote. There are also instances of people who take off for holidays if the voting day in their constituency happens to be close to a weekend. How closely involved Indian Rotarians are with the political system can be seen from MLAs and MPs being Rotarians. I distinctly recall Union Railway Minister Piyush Goel proudly tell a packed hall of Rotarians in Jaipur that he was a Rotarian. On a couple of Rotary WhatsApp groups, names of a few Rotarians contesting the Lok Sabha elections have come up. Let’s wish all of them well.
But while vote we must, as educated and enlightened Indians, it’s not enough that we just queue up to vote and flash the finger with black ink on social media groups. We have to apply our minds and vote for the best possible candidates to represent us in Parliament and work sincerely and diligently to take our country on the right growth path in the next five years. India is a country with 1.3 billion dreams; we need to send back to our Lok Sabha the best possible people who can steer our great nation in the right direction… a direction of economic growth and development, and justice and equity for all. We need a government that will represent all sections of society; both the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, and above all, those who toil in the farm sector to put food on our table… the farmers, the landless labourers, and the millions of women who do backbreaking work on the fields, often in scorching heat, through the entire agri cycle — from sowing to harvesting.
By the time the next issue of Rotary News comes out, we should not only know the results of this massive electoral exercise, but hopefully also have in place a strong and stable government. Meanwhile, I do hope our netas will tone down their shrill pitch in campaigning, and parties will take action against their candidates who are using foul and abusive language during election campaigns. The conduct of such persons doesn’t inspire any confidence in placing the reigns of our nation, and its destiny, in the hands of political outfits that tolerate or encourage such coarse language. While it might be too much to expect old world decency from all of those who are aspiring for the powerful position of an MP, the Indian electorate does deserve to see some decorum and decency from our politicians.
As we wind up this issue, news comes in of the heartbreaking and horrendous multiple bombings in Sri Lanka, killing over 300 people and injuring several hundreds. Another horrific reminder of what hatred does, putting into even sharper focus Rotary’s Peace programme.