TODAY -

The cost of a vote

Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *



Shareholders trade their fortune in the share market. Tycoons trade their wealth in commerce. Writers trade their mind in books. Of course, every eligible voter in the Republic of India trade his or her future five years in one ‘single vote’. This is a costly trade, a future with vision or a future with confusion. You can’t avoid religion and politics. They may not be one but they affect each other.

After the 61st Constitutional Amendment Act in 1988, the voter’s age is reduced to 18 years from 21 (article 326 in the Indian Constitution). Perhaps this was to encourage mature judgment in voting for one’s representative and early participation in nation building.

It will be absurd to sit back and grumble thinking I am not able to do anything in governance. No. The Constitution of India has given you a big privilege to decide your life and future with the right to vote for MLAs and MPs at the age of 18. This is your tool, your right, your weapon and your future.

Know your Candidate

Every candidate comes with a broad manifesto. There will be finer nuances of the broad manifesto as well. Read, re-read, discuss and give chance to the candidate to spell out his or her dreams for you and the society. We need to have civil debates and discussions about our concerns with the intending candidate. Then decide by yourself for yourself.

We need educated and broad minded persons who can articulate the nuances of the Constitution in front of us and behind us. We need persons who are responsible and honest. We need persons who can take us forward, not those who snub us and make us depend on them for eternity. That would not be leadership; it may akin to dictatorship in democratic clothing.

Whom to Vote for

Do not merely look at the faces of candidates, their community or their finance. You have the power to elect. Vote for those who will take you ahead in life, those who will stick out their necks to safeguard the constitutional rights, those who know the how’s and ways of democracy. Vote for true leaders, not for those who think they are leaders.

Do not cast your precious vote for those who can’t take criticisms and evaluation. They are immature to lead us. Rather vote for those who accept failure and try to improve upon it. They are our leaders with maturity. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” said George Bernard Shaw.

It is wiser to exercise informed decision than regret for negative surprises. Vote for peace, unity and ethnic co-existence in your land. Humans can survive together for prosperity. Annihilation mind-set and hatred are devil’s powerful ploys to stagnate human development and strangulate your dreams.

Value your Vote

To value your vote, you need to first find your own value. If you don’t value yourself, you are likely to trade your vote. Would you receive rupees 2000 and suffer for the next five years or say no to ‘Rupees 2000’ and see positive things happening with you and round you? Why are we so cheap to trade 5 years of our future with some meals and drinks? If you truly know the value of your vote, you will not trade with it. Your one vote equals to buying five years of your future.

Blame Game

Blaming others is a natural instinct many of us perform daily without any hesitation. If you enter the river, you are sure to get wet. If you elect this or that candidate, you are sure to get the worth of that person. If you have consciously voted for a person who promised to build a bridge where no river exists, then you have not done your homework.

Once you vote for him or her, you have not right to complain about it because you contributed to that election. Don’t blame the elected person. Blame yourself. And if you dare to criticize something, you should already have a better alternative to offer.

Beware of Communal Politics

It is true that everyone somehow favours his or her own community. But when it comes to your voting right, beware of those who engage in communal polity. This standard of politics is cheap and do not command our respect. The world is not composed of one community. Rather, different communities living and progressing as if in a garden of variety is the mosaic picture of the world today.

Therefore, support those who support variety of cultures and appreciate creativity in society. Heretogeneity is a better option than homogeneity where values of acceptance and diversity are nurtured.

Age of Advocacy

Anyone who agrees with you need not be your friend, and anyone who disagrees with you need not be your enemy either. Maturity is to see the point of acceptance and difference. Personalities such as Cicero and Caesar were among the greatest Roman lawyers and advocates.Advocacy is best explained in a handbook for planning advocacy by Save the Children Fund, UK.

It says that “advocacy is a social change process affecting attitudes, social relationships and power relations, which strengthens civil society and opens up democratic spaces”. Therefore, advocacy requires coordination, strategic thinking, right information, 360 degree communication, outreach and mobilization. Ritu R. Sharma from the Academy for Educational Development describes advocacy as a tool for “putting a problem on the agenda, providing a solution to that problem and building support for acting on both the problem and the solution”.

As you are preparing to vote, MK Gandhi’s list of the seven social sins is worth a reflection:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.

We all are responsible for social change. The cost of our vote is immense. Let us wisely build our future with our votes.


* Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at: paullelenhaokip(AT)gmail(DOT)com / https://paullelenhaokip.blogspot.com
This article was webcasted on 12 March, 2019.



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