New-age ways to make politicians accountable

I did some research on the basic qualification to become an MP and came in for a rude shock.
Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.express illustration

BENGALURU: As the nation is consumed by the whirlwind of Indian elections, we see usual signs all over the media. Exit polls predicting the next winner, debates on TV with journalists playing antakshari of accusations. And the customary picture of an old grandmother being carried to the voting booth, with the caption ‘Spirit of Democracy’. While these are all commendable, I couldn’t help but wonder if they are enough. In the age of social media and AI, we need new ways of covering elections.

I did some research on the basic qualification to become an MP and came in for a rude shock. Education is not really a criterion – you could be uneducated and still contest elections. Criminal cases are not an impediment. There is no real limit on wealth accumulated. So in essence, anybody can contest for elections as a Member of Parliament. The results are visible for all to see. One MP live streamed his voting process to the entire world. Another MP slapped a voter, practising only one half of Gandhi’s iconic line ‘If someone slaps you on one cheek…’. In the age of information and transparency, voters need a new way to select their leaders. It is only imperative that we look for solutions beyond the existing ones.

In the US, politicians debate with each other on live TV. Which is, of course, too much to ask for in India. Our politicians are more comfortable slinging dirt behind each others’ backs – than taking them head on in a debate. Which is why we need exclusively Indian solutions to this problem. How about a reality show to begin with? Aspiring politicians have to first be grilled by Raghu-Rajeev, who ask deep, journalistic questions like ‘Tu MP banega?’.

I assume we will have more entries for the voting lines on the show, as compared to voting percentages in urban India. Or how about a reality show for voters to see their leaders in real-time, full HD? For coalition politics, we need a ‘Coalition Splitsvilla’ to check if the (electoral) bond between the coalition parties is strong and stable. As it is, most horse-trading occurs in 5-star hotels; all we need is to erect a set and get Sunny Leone and Ranvijay to host the show. I find it rather unfair that cricketers have to slog in the hot summers, only to make a fraction of the wealth that politicians acquire. Why don’t we get to see our politicians day-in and day-out? Just for fun, we could also add betting to the mix, using apps like ‘Fantasy Lok Sabha’ and ‘MyCorrupt 11’.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘Hriday, even though you are clearly a genius, how do we get the youth to care about elections? Hold on, for my most revolutionary idea is yet to be presented - Politicians Trump Cards. India has the largest population of the world aged below 35. This is a generation that loves nostalgia. We create a pack of Politician Trump Cards for all the members of the Lok Sabha. Stack them according to Popularity, Education, Criminal Cases, Wealth Acquired, and Parties changed. Let voters shuffle the deck and play their cards right.

If nothing else works, let’s go old school. In Indian mythology, devas and asuras challenged each other to a tug-of-war by wrapping a gigantic snake around a mountain. With the eroding democratic fabric in our nation, one thinks it won’t be wrong to see our politicians pull their literal might in a Sunday Showdown to the finish. For all you know, it might be a fairer method than the ones being practised right now!

(The writer’s views are personal)

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