The binding force of largest democracy

The story of the Indian voter will be incomplete without a special mention of the “women voter”.
The binding force of largest democracy
(Express illustration | Mandar Pardikar)

Every election will have multiple stories to tell. But there will be one story that encapsulates all such stories. That story of the 2024 Parliament election is that of the Indian Voter — the one who is solely responsible for holding the largest democracy of the world together. In an election which was spread over three months and seven phases — unusually long even for our country — the Indian voter stood in serpentine queues braving sweltering heat, thin air and cold temperatures to cast their ballots. By doing so, s/he ensured that the festival of democracy is celebrated unhindered.

The Indian Voter, by no means, is a monolithic force. S/he is divided by every possible division — caste, religion, gender, age, regionality, ethnicity. The political engagement of the Indian voter is shaped by his past, present and aspirations for future. Here, history, sociology and politics join hands to shape his choices. So, does gender. Gone are the times when the female members would sign on dotted lines drawn by the male members in the family. Hence, family is no longer a monolithic unit and, instead, it is a unit of different identities with different political preferences. Increasingly, one’s religion, too, has become a crucial factor in shaping up one’s choices.

Despite these disparities, there is an “Indianness” that connected every voter as s/he stood in the queue to cast his vote. When a voter casts his vote in Tashigang, Himachal Pradesh, at the world’s highest polling station (an altitude of 15,256 feet), he is getting connected with the rest of the country in a unique way. It is the same connection that compelled 30,000-odd voters in Vadakara constituency in Kerala to take flights from the Gulf and come cast their vote. The same connect makes a voter of Alakattu tribal hamlet in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu trek 5 kilometres through rugged, hilly terrain to reach the polling station. When a special polling station was set up in Banej, tucked deep in the forests of Gir, for just one voter, it must be the same connect that was established there.

But there is something that should be a concern for those who repose their faith in democracy. It is the significant dip in the voters’ turn out across the country. Barring a few states like Karnataka and Telangana, there has been a visible fall in the voters’ turnout across the country. Multiple reasons are being attributed for this dampening of spirit – from interstate migration to absence of a strong contest. Voters’ apathy is certainly a thing to worry about as it has the potential to jeopardise the democratic structure of the country and it must be addressed.

The story of the Indian voter will be incomplete without a special mention of the “women voter”. Off late, her electoral turnout has been on par if not better to that of the male counterpart. This increased visibility of women voters is matched with the increased attention that political parties pay to court the women voter. (Women voters are more in numbers than males in seven states). Though the number of candidates is no match to the number of women voters, the increasing assertion of women voters is certainly a take away of the 2024 polls.

A staggering 968.8 million registered voters were there in this election — a figure nearly three times the population of the United States. One need not think twice to call the Indian election a celebration of democracy as nowhere else will one find an electoral process as inclusive as this one. India’s tryst with the election process is indeed a valuable lesson for the global community. Every voter who casts his vote in this election is living proof of the country’s commitment to democratic process. And it is, indeed, an exemplary thing to do.

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The New Indian Express