Absent Indian Voter Syndrome

Urban India’s failure to vote requires greater study

The Acorn has previously invited the ire of the citizens of Mumbai and Bangalore by blaming their neglect of voting for the sorry state of their cities’ (and India’s) governance.

Now, you would have thought that the series of terrorist attacks over the last few years—in commuter trains, places of worship, markets and finally, on Mumbai on November 26th last year—would have sensitised the urban voters of the need for all round improvement in governance. There were also reasonably well-publicised campaigns exhorting citizens to vote.

Yet, the turnout remained in the 40-45% range: more than one in two voters, it turns out, still didn’t turn up at the polling station. (Yes, there were some misguided initiatives that might have confused voters, but still…)

It’s terrible news. It confirms the belief among party political strategists that the urban middle class is merely a self-righteous, noisy segment that is electorally irrelevant. Sure, it’ll send undergarments to lumpen troglodytes, express eloquent outrage when a film is banned, take to the streets against politicians after terrorists attack and keep the candle industry in business, but it will not make a difference in terms of the composition of state legislatures and the national parliament. Why should they care?

That’s all very well for political parties and their strategists, but it means that it is unlikely that Indian politics—and governance—will see much of a break from the past. This is unacceptable.

Those individuals and organisations who are interested in improving governance need to study the Absent Indian Voter Syndrome in greater detail. It is clear that simple explanations of why eligible voters don’t vote are insufficient to explain AIVS phenomenon. Better analysis is required.

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36 Responses to Absent Indian Voter Syndrome

  1. Oldtimer 1st May 2009 at 13:57 #

    Apathy is not the only reason for low polling. I actually question high polling figures. Urban areas tend to be under greater media glare and also stricter vigilance by entities like the EC, hence there is less scope for electoral fraud. In cities, in my view, the polling number reflects a truer picture of voter participation. Let us not be misled by the higher polling figures of pre-Seshan era, if they are indeed higher.

    Likewise, high polling percentages do not necessarily indicate greater voter enthusiasm either. Fraud could have contributed to the figure. Illegal methods of voter mobilization could have been used. Or, as in West Bengal, franchise could have been reduced to an exercise orchestrated and managed by political parties, not a choice exercised by thinking individuals.

    What are the polling figures in democracies around the world where voting is not mandatory? I suspect the overall situation is no different in other countries either, despite the average voter there presumably being better informed and educated.

  2. chikki 1st May 2009 at 14:18 #

    Though I currently don’t reside in India, I think , it is because of the procedure to get oneself in the electoral roll, probably!!

    Other than that, what might weaken your argument is that these electoral rolls are not updated properly, sometimes they have names of people who have shifted or died, and a lot of such cases.

    Otherwise, the turnout might be a lill better than 50%…But yea! it will still be sad. Only if they make the whole goddamn procedure very easy and spend a lill more on awareness, things might improve!

  3. BOK 1st May 2009 at 14:51 #

    Fraud, if it happens, is highly likely to be reported these days. The era of single-party dominance has been over for a while. Today, it is not only the EC that watches out for fraud, but also other parties.

    As to polling percentage, Wikipedia comes to help [link] with a very informative article.

    Some random pickings (for countries where voting is not compulsory, 1960-95, lower house elections, source is cited in the Wikipedia article):

    UK, France – 76% (9 elections for each)
    Canada – 76% (11 elections)
    Japan – 71% (12 elections)
    India – 58% (6 elections)
    US – 54% (9 elections)

    Figures for US are only for those elections when the Presidential elections took place along with Congressional ones. That drags down their average because people in US vote in larger numbers for Presidential elections [link].

    BTW, looks like Dakshin Kannada (with Managalore) had a very high voter turnout (70% +). I have lost the TOI link right now, unfortunately.

  4. Pradeep 1st May 2009 at 19:15 #

    I have always refused to accept the theory that “We get the leaders we deserve”, claiming all sorts of reasons from illiteracy to indifference. But, Mumbai having low turnout truly is disappointing. The adage now appears to me to have a grain of truth.

    @ Oldtimer – Inflated figures in other parts of India do not justify the low turnout. 44% is shameful to say the least.

  5. Chandra 1st May 2009 at 19:41 #

    Nitin, sometimes things are lot simpler to explain. People living in cities, especially the younger people, yes those same candle holders – all those mobs that numbered into low hundreds, at the most, don’t want to stand in line for few hours to vote.

    It’s fun, to those people, to stand in line to watch old flailing men/women who won’t grow up like rolling stones or madonna. What does one get after voting, especially after we are told all politicians are crooks?

  6. raj 1st May 2009 at 19:58 #

    Nitin, the literati may stay away from the polls, not just because of apathy, but because a good choice of candidates is not available. Why should I walk up to the booth, only to be confronted with a list of undesirable and repulsive elements, to choose from, whatever be their political affiliation? Ok, we have the option to state that we are not voting for anyone, but catch me standing in the queue just to cast a null vote. So, the real analysis that is required is not on AIVS, but on how do we set off a virtuous cycle in which we get more honest and capable candidates to contest and, in turn, motivate the literati to cast their votes. And, if these candidates are ‘independent’ how do we remove the feeling that there is no point in voting for them, as they can never be part of a Government. Should we prevent the political parties from contesting in 25% of the seats?

  7. rishi 1st May 2009 at 20:06 #

    The voting percentage has gone down. However we cannot say at this stage whether the voting percentage of the middle class , or the voting percentage of the poor has gone down.

    Even if you consider Mumbai, the middle class and the upper middle classs would not make a large percentage of the total voters. Maybe, this time the middle class has voted while the poor have not.

  8. TTG 1st May 2009 at 22:31 #

    I have to agree with Raj. It is not just apathy – but also lack of choice.

    Your choices currently in India are limited to the following:

    Murderous Greybeards
    Impotent Turbanned Greybeards
    Communist Greyhairs
    Halfbreed Feudal Progeny
    Deranged Feudal Progeny
    Gangsters

    (I am sure I am missing one or 2 categories, but this is pretty much what we have right now).

    I don’t want to vote for any of them. Many commentators dismiss this as an excuse but this is truth. I have a voter’s ID card, I am willing to stand in line (it was not very long anyway), I even stood in line in 2004 and cast my vote. But I want to ask you – how many times must I be forced to vote for ‘the lesser evil’, or ‘the next best alternative’.

    Why is our choice of national party limited to either Fascism or Communism? In these circumstances, it is illogical, possibly even irrational to vote.

    Why must I vote for the BJP, yet keep blinkers on to what happened in Gujarat – what REALLY happened there we will never know, clearly. Either way, the US Governement isn’t giving Modi a visa – that says volumes. Now whether that is based on ‘pseudo-secular’ Indian English media outlets, or actual on the ground CIA field agents (who knows, it could happen), the point is something nasty is up.

    Congress? The only thing they can think of fielding is a clueless retard with the last name Gandhi. That is it? THAT is the solution to our country’s problems?

    Mayawati? Statues of a bovine individual coming up across UP?

    Let’s not even talk about our made-in-China communists.

    You ask me to come down to earth, and to accept the reality of the situation, but I don’t see why i should be forced to.

    Some day, if this country can produce a leader:
    who believes in free-market principles,
    individual freedom,
    women’s rights,
    freedom of speech,
    religious tolerance (by this I don’t mean pandering to minorities – I simply mean we don’t sponsor the state to go out and murder them – but that doesn’t mean i feel paying for the Haj is correct either),
    has a coeherent vision for this country being strong, powerful and prsoperous, which includes cleaning up our cities, and urbanising our rural areas,
    reduces our dependence on agriculture,
    boosts manufacturing,
    improves our environment,
    tries to get our people educated,
    stands up to the foreign powers
    provides its citizens with an even semi-decent police force
    ROAD ROADS ROADS
    Public Transport
    Electricity
    Some vision for how they are going to provide our population with more water

    You will see me voting.

    Why should I dumb myself down and put on blinkers and vote for the least worst gangster / uncle-ji on the list? I am tired – tired of having to put up with pub-bashing, book-burning morons. But I don’t have anybody to take up my cause – because, unfortunately, in this country – my wants are dismissed as elitist, impractical e.t.c.

    The reason they are thought that way , is because our political system, while it provides a measure of stability, and has helped our country ‘progress’ to the point that it is currently at, is outmoded. It is a corrupted form of democracy created by an inbred white woman who wanted to cling to her throne. Why are we still propagating it? And why am I forced to promote it?

    Our democracy needs to be revised, from the ground up. Democracy is the best system of governance, especially for the countries-within-country that make up India. But why must I accept the current format of that system foisted upon me as the correct one?

    Has even one candidate spoken of reforming our democratic system? Even one? If so – is s/he in my constituency?

    One final point – somebody will go out and suggest that if I am so fed up of this system – why don’t I run for parliament myself and try and fix it?

    Here is where I shall inject some reality back into the proceedings – do you really think that i would be able to fight and win against the gigantic amount of forces that would rise up against me – starting with every local politician’s gangsters, then to the in-cahoots police force, and finally an ancient and repressive set of laws?

    I would have to struggle for a lifetime, and by the time I would surmount those odds, I would be one of the greybeards I don’t want to vote for.

    The current system propagates itself, and prevents any real change from occuring – unless we get ‘lucky’. In those circumstances, I choose not to vote.

    Lucky for us, enough of our country is outside of government control, such that it can operate on autopilot, and the reforms will happen, as they have done so far, on Indian Standard Time.

  9. rc 1st May 2009 at 22:38 #

    raj,

    >>Why should I walk up to the booth, only to be confronted with a list of undesirable and repulsive elements, to choose from, whatever be their political affiliation? >>

    So which one is it ? Repulsive or Undesirable.

    >> but on how do we set off a virtuous cycle

    See above :-)

  10. Atlantean 1st May 2009 at 23:53 #

    TTG,

    do you really think that i would be able to fight and win against the gigantic amount of forces that would rise up against me – starting with every local politician’s gangsters, then to the in-cahoots police force, and finally an ancient and repressive set of laws?

    Yes, you can. If Jaiprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta party, very much a gentle middle class fellow like you, can fight elections at such a large scale, surely you can.

    Andhra Pradesh has seen a voting turnout of 75% and swarms of goons, police (pro-establishment) and laws are very much a problem there too.But you have Lok Satta, a small party whose only known weapon is honesty, fighting the election. Several young people voted for the party. A friend of mine says that 90% of the student body at Osmania University is voting for Lok Satta, as did my friend. Participation and participation alone is what brought Lok Satta this far. Whether Lok Satta wins or not is besides the point. It might not even get 10 seats in the Assembly but what is completely certain is that its vote base is bound to increase massively in the coming decade or two. Political parties take time to gain in importance. Lok Satta will become a force to reckon with in the future.

    I give this example to show that when a committed and enlightened set of people come together and TRY TO DO something, things are possible.

    Of course, there’ll be goons and all. But the road to glory is often paved with shit, and you have to be willing to get through all that if you want to reach your destination. Nothing can be achieved without struggle, hardwork and sacrifice.

    So get out there and try to do something. Just try… Dont surrender even before the first shot is fired by making silly excuses.

  11. TTG 2nd May 2009 at 00:32 #

    Atlantean – you come back with the same old arguments – which are mere ‘headfakes’ to help carry on the illusion that something is going on – and you miss my greater point – that our democratic system needs some serious reform – but it is hard to reform it from without.

    As you yourself have said – the Lok Satta party will take time to gain a following, which, in the current scheme of things means the following:

    1) It will never really gain a following, because the people it caters too are always a small percentage of the population (let’s assume for a second that they are not cynics like me). – therefore, in our current system, it will always be on the fringe – unless it manages to find a way to appeal to a wider base. As you say this takes time – making Mr. Narayan the greybeard I don’t want to vote for. Why do you not question _why_ it takes so much time?

    2) If it succeeds in appealing to a wider base – you can bet your life on the fact that it will be squashed to death by whoever is currently in power, unless it also ‘plays the game’. Playing the game involves amassing an army of rowdies, and fat suitcases of cash – and making empty promises. Again, the nature of the system is such that this is the only way. It then ceases to be a party whom I would want to vote for.

    Have you ever considered the fact that a Presidential system might suit this country better and be faster at implementing the change you say ‘takes time’? Or even if it doesn’t is there no attempt to experiment at all with the existing system? Are we so sure a first-past-the-post westminster style system is the way to go? Other systems have always been discussed and discarded, but we will never know unless we try a different system – but how to go about implementing a different system?

    We are now stuck in an unfortunate equilibrium. Maybe you could argue that our system has served well thus far (or not, if you view that glass as half empty) – but maybe it’s time for a change? A Real Change.

    How does my voting for the BJP / Congress candidate in South Delhi bring that about (they are both stupid uncles who don’t have a clue as to what Delhi requires) – and if i were to try and confront them about this I would get the same patronising answers that you give me – atlantean – that beta, these things take time.

    Do I not make a greater statement by saying I refuse to play your game – until you think up some new rules? Could this not be one interpretation of the lack of turnout?

    I know I have been rambling for some time now but the gist of what I am doing is challenging the notion that ‘participation’ – specifically defined as voting, in this case – is necessary to bring about a change in the system.

  12. kedar 2nd May 2009 at 04:07 #

    TTG:

    You are a good boy. I really like you. Just keep ‘not voting’ and everything will set itself aright.

    I wish we had an emoticon for ‘thumbs up’.

  13. Suman 2nd May 2009 at 09:27 #

    I think there might be two main reasons for this low rate, esp in Bangalore
    – the first which accounts for probably 10% less voting this time could be http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/24/stories/2009042456870400.htm.
    – the second is when people believe that there is noone worth voting for. In this case, not many people are aware of Rule 49(O) – that if you are not interested in any of the candidates, you can opt to fill in a 49(0) form. And if the number of 49(O) votes are greater than 40%, then a re-election is called for with fresh candidates. If the Election commission/media try their best to inform people of this option, I am sure the turn out will be much larger.

  14. Ranjith 2nd May 2009 at 11:48 #

    the literati may stay away from the polls, not just because of apathy, but because a good choice of candidates is not available

    Really ? Consider the following:

    (1) Mumbai South, where Meera Sanyal is a candidate, did not have any high turn out.

    (2) Thirivananthapuram, where Shashi Tharoor is a candidate, had the lowest turn out in Kerala!

  15. Ranjith 2nd May 2009 at 12:17 #

    Nitin,

    This post tells us that people respond to incentives. Today, whether you vote or not you have the same facilities. May be the govt should try out some new ideas like :

    (a) If you do not vote, you have no tax benefits. You will have to pay a higher tax.

    or

    (b) If you do not vote, you will have least preference in accessing public facilities (like courts, police station).

    I think at least the idea (a) is feasible, and must be tried out! The rational thing to do :-)

  16. Aam Insaan 2nd May 2009 at 13:15 #

    ‘Not voting’ is simply mental & physical lethargy…

  17. Wanderer 2nd May 2009 at 13:22 #

    I think TTG’s rant(s) are symptomatic of the apathy that plagues the average urban middle class today. The lazy middle class is content with believing what the “don’t vote” propagandists in the media feed it with – that all politicians are corrupt, ill-mannered, incompetent and worthless.

    People like TTG refuse to spend time and analyze the candidate in their constituency or the political party that he represents. TTG wants a spotless white candidate presented to him on a platter – only then will he go out to vote. Things do not work that way – anywhere.

    A committed voter spends some time analyzing the views of the candidates he is presented with, reads election manifestos, browses candidate websites, goes beyond media propaganda, looks at the record of the current government on issues – both candle-light-worthy issues like terror attacks as well as invisible issues like the abandoned Golden Quadrilateral Project. Issues like mismanagement of the economy and foreign policy.

    But no. It’s so much easier to sit and crib about the choices that one is presented with.

    Here’s an excerpt from the friendsofbjp.org website

    http://friendsofbjp.org/2009/02/13/why-we-support-the-bjp-because-india-deserves-better/

    We are on the wrong track. And it is WE who put us there. By our apathy, by not voting, by accepting mediocrity, by not being part of the political process. The best we do is show up at candle-light vigils when we are shocked from our smugness, but don’t we need something more concrete and impactful?
    We are India’s educated civil society. If we cannot act individually and as a team, then we forfeit the right to complain. Democracy comes with responsibilities and duties. It also comes with a generation having to make some sacrifices so the Tomorrow for our children can be better than our Today.
    We have less than 90 days only to the elections. India has 2 national parties and a multitude of regional parties. We have to make a choice about the party at the Centre. We can wait for a utopian world and the creation of the Perfect Political Party. Or, we can pick the party with the lighter shades of grey.

    So TTG, i’d rather get off my butt and vote rather than come up with fancy classifications for our politicians. I mean the names you have come up with do sound cool- but they’re even more worthless than the politicians they describe.

  18. Jai_C 2nd May 2009 at 13:36 #

    “Why should I dumb myself down and put on blinkers and vote for the least worst gangster / uncle-ji on the list?”

    To get to a point where your son/ daughter will be able to vote for somebody closer to that long list you had before.

    Thanks,
    Jai

  19. Venkat 2nd May 2009 at 17:46 #

    As long is voting is not compulsory, we should not crib about low turnouts. People have their own excuses to not vote.

  20. jujung 2nd May 2009 at 18:50 #

    On the lighter side, may be urban India does not vote because no one is distributing cash to them to vote?
    http://www.greatandhra.com/ganews/viewnews.php?id=14912&scat=39

    “Scene-I: People at Ramnagar in Chirala constituency did not cast their vote till 4.30 pm on the polling day on April 23 in protest against non-disbursement of cash by the candidates. Realising that polling would be over even if they did not turn up to exercise their franchise, few women went to the polling booth and smashed the EVMs only to invite re-polling and three full days of time to bargain.

    Scene-II: Voters at a slum in Guntur took Rs 500 per vote from two candidates and still did not move to the polling booth. For, they were angry with the third candidate who, they believe, had disbursed cash in their neighbouring colony but did not turn up at their ward.

    Scene-III: A Congress activist argued with the party leaders at New Rajarajeswaripet in Vijayawada for ‘insulting’ him by not giving cash for his vote. When the leaders told him that he as a party activist should feel ashamed to take the money, the activist retorted saying that his rating among the locals would come down if he was not rewarded.

    Scene-IV: People staged a dharna in front of a local cable TV office in Ongole along with the slips (worth Rs 2 crore) issued by the poll managers of PRP candidate P Anand demanding the disbursement of cash. They argued that they were told that they would be given the amount on producing the slips after casting the vote. Anand is a majority stake holder in the cable TV network and said to have distributed the amount subsequent to the protests.”

  21. gbz 2nd May 2009 at 19:28 #

    interesting comments. But we might be leaving out a couple of important factors here.

    For one, as some politicians pointed out, there is a problem of voter burn out as well. When you have 2-3 elections within a span of 4-5 months, people wont come out to vote each time. Granted that prob doesn’t apply to all urban areas but still needs to be considered. Second, i am not sure it makes sense to calculate a gross voter turn out rate. Like most gross percentages, it hides too much detail. Like gross and net unemployment figures, it prob makes sense to also estimate what percent of ‘willing voters’ did not vote and what % are simply unwilling. Add to that, that many willing voters dont vote for any number of mundane reasons, traveling, unwell, emergency, cant get to polling stations, whatever. You can prob take 5-8% just for that.

    The real figure of concern if we are measuring apathy should be the % unwilling voters – (100-voter turnout) doesnt equal that. And if you take a cross section of voters across elections (not just one election), you might well find that 70-80% of people vote in at least in 1 election in a given electoral cycle. Thats the analysis we need.

  22. Eshwar 2nd May 2009 at 22:36 #

    It is a dangerous trend when citizens of one country base their electoral choices (non-choices) based on what some other country thinks about those choices. TTG mentioned that the “even” the US refused visa to Modi thats why he believes he is a “Murderous Greybeard “. It is almost funny if not for the seriousness of the issue here. Did TTG for one moment think what moral authority does US have to give certificates of good conduct to people. What about Iraq where 100 of 1000s of people were killed because of lunacy of one US president. Who is accountable for this? US warmly embraces mass-murderers and dictatotors like Musharaff, but refuses to a visa to a democratically elected leader of India. Where is the morality now? It is silly to say the least to cite the visa denial issue to assign culpability to Modi. What a bunch of crock these so called “South Mumbai elites” live on.

  23. Atanu Dey 2nd May 2009 at 23:43 #

    Jujung, thanks much for the supporting evidence on why I keep insisting that India is a cargo-cult democracy.

  24. Detroit India 2nd May 2009 at 23:56 #

    I never voted in India, having left right after college. When I think about who I would have voted for, one thing confuses me: would I vote for someone who represents the interests of my area the best, or would I vote for the party which I want to be in power centrally. Complicating this issue more is the fact that were I to vote for a regional party, I wouldn’t necessarily know who they would support in a coalition.

    The US system solves this conundrum nicely. Vote for a president and then vote for your senators and congressmen. You know who would lead the country and who would represent you well in the senate/congress.

    Could the fact that voters are so far removed from choice of the national leader in the parliamentary system, generate additional lethargy? E.g. many Indians I met are horrified by the idea of Mayawati as PM (for whatever reasons, that is not the point), but can they through their vote prevent this outcome? I am not that sure and were she to become PM, the cynicism of these voters would increase.

    This is an interesting issue. India being at a crossroads; one would guess that people’s interest in the democratic process would be at an all time high. But this doesn’t seem to be the case!

  25. Bobcat 3rd May 2009 at 06:11 #

    There is a fundamental flaw in your analysis. You seem to believe that change happens when more people go to the polling booth to vote. There is no good reason to believe that. For one thing, the balance of power between urban and rural areas is dependant on the number of seats falling in each category which in turn is decided primarily by the size of the population in each, not the size of the voting population. So regardless of whether the turnout is 40% or 70%, the number of MLAs/MPs elected from either type of setting will be the same and their ability to influence the political arithmetic too will therefore stay unaltered.

    You are right that by exercising their franchise, people can make a difference as to who wins from the constituency. But more people voting will only make a difference if an important condition is satisfied: increased voter turnout is a sign of specific voter expectations that are apparent to politicians and in turn, politicians/parties are distinguishable from one another in some way that makes this difference in voter turnout significant for some politicians/parties but not others. In an election such as the present one without significant issues, there is no telling how those who stayed home would have voted had they ventured to the booth. So loss of the additional 30% or so of voters may very well mean a general loss for all contestants and no particular loss for any single candidate or party. That leaves higher public participation no more effective than lower participation.

  26. Bobcat 3rd May 2009 at 06:13 #

    One correction: I meant to say:”…politicians/parties are distinguishable from one another in some way that makes this difference in voter turnout significant to them“.

  27. jujung 3rd May 2009 at 07:33 #

    Atanu Dey,
    I think the examples just show that the people are only acting rationally, as Acorn would say. It’s not that the people are ignorant/indifferent, it’s just that they don’t really expect the Govt. to do anything for them. So, the logic goes that they might as well take money atleast for voting. If the current state is pathetic, it’s mostly because of the lack of good leadership and not because people deserved it.
    Great leadership will certainly inspire people. And that has been precisely lacking in our democracy for the last few decades. I think parties like Loksatta will make a difference in the near future.

    It would be great if one of the INI bloggers could discuss the merits of Loksatta’s agenda. (http://www.loksatta.org/cms/)

  28. Sud 3rd May 2009 at 07:44 #

    Bravo TTG!

    Marvellose effort.

    Your polemic reads so much like an article/ column or blogpost from somewhere. In fact, chances are it is one. Did you write it or didya righteously copy-paste it – with lengthy rationalizations for why copy-pasting is so much better than having to type the whole darn thing out…..

    Just like righteously not voting with lengthy rationalizations and customary references to Gujrat is the only way out of having to stand in Q in the desi summer sun.

    Best of luck, matey. Let the perfect be the enemy of the good, for ever come.

  29. digvijay 3rd May 2009 at 08:00 #

    The middle class voter in india has understood that whatever he may do the democracy will survive ( the democracy of the illetrate /hungry/unsure/poor/purchaseable voters ) Is the country fit for democracy , there is a doubt in my mind ,is the politician wanting to good or is he good enough .Sadness overwhelms me but I still believe my vote maybe worth something.The more I think the worse I feel .Commitment is lacking all over , everywhere .Where do I start ?Urban voter has understood whatever he does , he will fail in the present circumstances — jai hind

  30. Oldtimer 3rd May 2009 at 11:50 #

    Atanu, excellent analysis there in your “cargo cult democracy”. I quote the last sentence:

    “the Indian economy is spinning around in the bowl and will soon be down the tubes as soon as the flush cycle finishes”

    Prescient.

  31. photonman 3rd May 2009 at 13:00 #

    @ Atanu

    The problem with your argument is: History shows that no nation was born as an “advanced” democracy; institutions and people take time to evolve. Also, given its diversity I don’t see how a united India can be ruled without democracy.

    You also claim “Transplanting computers to a place where these systems don’t exist is silly because the computers are then like the props used by the South Pacific islanders.”

    It is not clear what “systems” that AICs have. If you’re referring to introducing computers to third world countries: Do you have any idea what computerization has done to the ticketing system in the Railways? Or what impact EVMs had on the problem of “booth-capturing”? And how many lives did satellite-based weather monitoring coupled with heavy-duty computing save? What about tele-medicine? And the big one: would the outsourcing boom have occured without introducing computers in this third world country?

  32. dubash 4th May 2009 at 02:40 #

    I never thought I would say this, but I think there should be a “none of the above button” on the EVMs. Ideally this button should be rigged to produce a lovely little jolt of electricity, nothing excessive, you know just enough to make the “voter” yelp incoherently for a few minutes. I would rather hear the yelping than have to parse through their logic one more time.

    But seriously they should have none of the above option. I am going to hazard a guess, even if given the “none” option, the percentage of voters who will “exercise” this right will probably not exceed 5%. What are the chances that an apathetic voter will actually do something proactive to register his apathy? And if it does exceed 5%, I promise to walk from Kanyakumari to Kashmir — backwards, while welcoming the people en route to hurl the footwear of their choice.

    Although I don’t want to seem like I am giving aid and comfort to the apathetic. There is research indicating that when people are presented with an increase in the number of choices, they end up not making any choice. Sheena Iyengar’s work shows that participation in 401(k) actually drops off when employees are given more fund options.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~ss957/publications.shtml (The Dark Side of Choice: When Choice Impairs Social Welfare)

    “Information overload: An increase in the number of options raises the cognitive costs involved in comparing and evaluating the options and thus leads to suboptimal decision strategies. Preference uncertainty: Consumers do not necessarily hold well-defined, stable, rank-ordered preferences before the decision is made. Negative emotions: Choosing among undesirable options and trading off emotion-laden attributes generates psychological pain.”

    I love the bits about “cognitive costs” the inability to rank preferences and psychological pain involved in making choices. I say all of these people are prime candidates for the aforementioned AVEST (Apathetic Voter Electro Shock Therapy)

    I think there is also a paper by Iyengar showing that second generation americans of asian descent (Indian and Chinese) seem to prefer fewer options.

  33. TTG 4th May 2009 at 19:06 #

    Nitin, if you will allow me my reply to some people’s responses (and then i shall not hijack your blog any longer).

    It saddens and amuses me at some of the responses to my rant:

    Dear Wanderer (and many of the others) – it is quite clear that you have not even read what i have written – my ended my long ramble with an attempt to restart a debate on our system itself – but you seem have gone past that, and can’t get over my little sidebar on Modi, and wish to push the BJP forward.

    You mention all that the BJP is good for, and of course gloss over the fact that women are assaulted for going pubs in the name of Indian Culture, Christian Missionaries (may or may not) have been murdered), pregnant muslim women (may or may not) have been raped or murdered, and that the BJP pretty much sold out the country when it came to the Nuclear Deal. But of course, as you say I am ‘apathetic’ – I am not quite sure you know what the word means. Apathetic people usually couldn’t be bothered to write out million-word rants. As for the idiots running for parliament from my constituency I’m pretty sure I know good deal about them, having actually met them and read what it is they stand for – and just so you know, my consituency is South Delhi, not South Bombay.

    TTG wants a spotless white candidate presented to him on a platter – only then will he go out to vote. Things do not work that way – anywhere.

    It is precisely this kind of nonsense that saddens me the most. We have reached a stage where we have reduced our expectations to such an extent, that asking for a candidate to not have a criminal case against him, and to actually represent me is considered having unreasonable expectations. Again, you keep telling me to take what is given? Why should I?

    Jai_C – we are all intelligent human beings – please draw me a path from how voting in a semi-corrupt politician now leads to enabling my children to vote for a sane politician that respects individual rights, free markets, and my view of what India should be like – surely there must be a logical path to this, that clearly i am missing?

    Eshwar, it is interesting that you choose to completely miss the point of what I saying. Nobody said anything about basing my decision on the US’ decision – it is the final nail in the coffin as far as I am concerned, and nobody said anything about ‘Certificates of Approval’. If a certain country is annoyed enough with you to not let you enter it, one has to wonder why – because they did let Mahmoud Ahmadinajad in – curious no? Maybe he’s not responsible for a pogrom – although he’s not quite right in the head either… – it is even more interesting that you completely bypass what it is I want to see in a candidate, and assume that my decision was purely and solely based on a visa decision – who is the one being lazy?

    It is interesting that all of those people who have criticised me, missed the crux of the argument – can no other form of democracy be used to elect India’s leaders? How are you all so sure this is the best form? Apparently, we are all supposed to be sheep, who are just supposed to vote vote vote. And clearly, i am not allowed to question that system…

    I said it before, and I’ll say it again – the choices presented in this election seemed to be between dumb & dumber. In such a situation, it is perfectly rational not to exercise your choice. If you confuse this with ‘apathy’ , you may need to consider your own intellectual laziness, and blind faith in an outmoded system.

    P.S. LokSatta will never be able to atain national status. This is because of the system, the way it currently stands. You heard it here first.

    (thanks for letting have this space Nitin. Good bye)

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