Atanu Dey On India's Development

Discussion: Indian Voters are Corrupt

This place is far too quiet. Time to stir it up a bit. So let’s have a bit of a debate. The proposition before the house is:
The Indian voter is corrupt.

That article is from around the time of the general elections of 2004. I discovered a bunch of posts in the archives which are relevant. Here they are:

April 2004, Democracy in India
May 2004, Cargo Cult and Democracy
Nov 2004, India, the World’s Largest Kleptocracy
Dec 2004, On Being Ruled by Toads

  • http://www.broadbandblog.in Abhishek

    It’s the matter of debate really; about the voter being corrupt.

    First, the politicians come from the same strata of society; so they aren’t really different. Why do we take a moral high ground everytime it’s time to point fingers at politicians? They are there to promote their self interests, make money and taste power. Perhaps acquire more power. It would give anyone a high to see the retinue of people following them; to be able to direct public resources to their own ends. Media, bureaucracy and Corporates combine to oil this system.

    This is their profession. Period.

    Now, when it comes to elect them, how many of you would take this class to task other than local issues? Would anyone ask Gandhi as to why thy are hell bent on promoting “peace with Pakistan”? Or perhaps the assinine trend towards reservations? Nope. The minorties who have a stake wouldn’t obviously protest at lowering of standards.Or that reservations are quick fix issues without any basis.

    We all have bamboozled ourselves to accept the status quo. We all lament about the system without realising that we have been emasculated. Hindus on a whole would go to any extent to “suffer in silence” as “acceptance” of their fate, rather than rise up as one nation and demand their space.

    The rot runs deeper. It isn’t wholly about corruption; it’s about death- Living Dead.

    Before I end, I read Mr Reuben’s comments with interest(in the linked post). His reasoning was simply to obsfuscate the real issue and question our nationality. He almost justified the presence of Sonia Gandhi as Super PM. There can’t be worse sense of shame for ANY nation of consequence, specially the one that aspires to get on the world stage. In a nation of billion people, we can’t choose a PM that can take decisions independently.

    Interestingly, Congress polled less votes than BJP. It was fortuitous circumstances for them to combine with another “dyed in wool traitors”- the commies. “Secularism” as in “Indian definition” has been done to death right from Nehru’s times. The Indian voter was dead since then.

  • http://karmayogical.blogspot.com karmayogi

    Ok, I agree that there are a lot of traits in Indian voters which should lead one to conclude what Atanu suggests…. BUT, how can we change that ?

    Facts:
    1) India has a large population of under literate , pseudo literate or illiterate folks that outnumber the rational, literate or logical reasoning driven individuals.
    2) Our democracy is based on a linear system where every person’s vote counts as one and hence a crook standing for election, in a district with 70% illiteracy can muscle his way into an elected position.
    3) Any person once elected, can be “chosen” as a minister, prime minister, whatever.

    Some Remedies
    1) Lets not do this one man one vote business. Let us add weightage to votes.
    2) The weightage must be applied based on a large number of factors. Monetary background of a person should NOT be one of them. Education definitely should be. I leave the other parameters open for debate.
    3) Now coming to the elected personnel themselves, just because one got elected, doesn’t make you eligible to be “prime minister”, you have to have certain weightage yourselves, including the weightage of the people who voted for you to garner your own index to reach different power positions.
    4) Politicans cannot change constituencies with their own will and fancy. They have to run from their native or adopted constituency with proof of residence.

    It is quite complex, I know, but the incentive for an aspiring politician to improve his power position would be make sure that his constituents grow in their own weightage and he in turn grows closer to a ministerial chair.

    My two cents,
    Anin

  • http://pranay.nomadlife.org Pranay Da Spyder

    Trying to debate your argument by comparing Indian and American voters is useless. It would probably turn out that American voters are just as corrupt as Indian voters.

    Your argument though, is true only relativistically. The majority of Indian voters seem corrupt to you, only because perhaps you yourself are uncorrupt or like to believe that you are.

    If the majority of Indian people (or indeed the world) weren’t corrupt, what would constitute the intelligentsia or utopian dreamers?

    The simple fact that people like you (us?) exist and discuss such things implies the remainder possess virtues we dislike and not the other way round. Perhaps the corrupt discuss why the non-corrupt make such a big issue out of making money and still support capitalism – of course they would believe this in their own idiosyncratic way and we would be hard-pressed to make sense of that, but ah well.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    what the last 2 generations were brought up to belive that (a) we should be proud to be indian
    (b) its was the british thats keept us down.
    There is a politcal neurosis that kicks in
    when any one touches topics related to either. Socialism was a response to these neurosis.
    last month i read history of punjab national bank by tandon who describes the environment after nationalization, where a generation of people who had gotten there way through strikes dharna हमारी मांगे पूरी करो
    (hamari maange puri karo. fulfill my demands) attitude from college days into their proffessional lives. They demanded general promotion in their college days and got their way.They demanded overtime when they were underemployed by the bank! And guess what the politicos and others gave into this.
    Lets really see what the last allegedly educated generation demaned and got away in the name of democracy. They demanded that test standards be lowered or every one be given a promotion to next year and they got it. They then demanded employment without being productive and they got it.
    Tandon blames the politicians. Thats not quite true. It was the general public which was the reason. This core sickness is the cancer that has nearly killed india.
    I am not proud to be an indian but this is my only identity so i am fighting for it and you know its a different kind of fight.
    I have to be productive! the slogan for our times should be aapnee maange puri khud kar
    nahin to chup baith. अपनी मांगे खुद पूरी कर नही तो चुप बैठ
    There is a sense of entitlement without the sense to make productive use of time and energy that exists in the educated section.
    Thats what needs to change big time.
    And the private sector needs change too.
    For all the talks of indian entreprenuers unleashed there isnt the flurry of activity that would be going on if it was truely unleasehed Even today the family owned conglomerates dominate indian private sector in every industry. They dont want competion and they dont pressure the government to change laws. Because they know how to manipulate a system. They have made their deals with unions and permit mantris and dont want competition. And these folks claim to be the patriotic capitalistic right wing indians. In reality they know that the only reason they had that position is not because of merit but inheretance and dont want to compete.
    They are the similar to the government job seeker type who wanted someting without having the ability to produce this.
    With all this off my chest. I am not overwhelmed yet……. there is still a good deal of hope left in india. Its not as energetic as US still however.

  • Venkat Ramanan

    Indian voters are a mix of everything – some are corrupt, some (many?) are illiterate, very few are capable enough of thinking whom to vote (but we don’t know if they go to vote), and lot of our netas misuse their powers during the election. So, though it may be tough to classify an Indian voter as corrupt, it can be certainly said that all is not well with him. He is lured by a few Gandhian votes, which you can attribute to his poverty. He doesnot have the discretion to understand that it is the same neta (who offer them a few gandhian notes during elections) who has kept him below the poverty line… Awarding weightages (as suggested by one friend) is an excellent idea, but ‘how’ needs to be probed..
    So, My suggestions are
    1) Information campaigns on contestants in the particular area.. The campaign should highlight what were the projects carried in that area, employment generated, overall economic development over the past few years, social and financial background of the contestants.. This has already been happening at a literate level, through the newspapers. but, the whole act could be spruced up by NGOs and Welfare organisaton.
    2) Setting up Training academies like the ones existing for IAS, IPS etc. Only candidates who have passed through these academies are eligible for contesting in elections. If this may require changing the definition of democracy, we should set an example by doing that. It is another question as to what are the entry criterion and whether there would be recommendations for entry in to the school :) , but there must be some academy where the netas learn the basics… Anyone and everyone should not aspire to be an MLA/MP. This anyone/everyone clause creates lot of competition for the post and so, stringent entry criteria may ease the competition. We want the best candidates to be in the post and so some measures have to be taken!!

  • http://http:onlyvoid.blogspot.com Shivani

    Just went through the comments that people have posted above:

    1. As part of solution to the flaws in system – the culprit is chosen. I remember Atanu – what you often state – the need of having correct incentives to make things work…and rest everything falls in place.

    So with that reasoning,can one say that voters do not have the correct incentives to vote for the best leader – What could these incentives be?.

    2. Education alone is not the solution.It does not guarentee corruption-less behaviour from either side – the voter or the politician.I am a proof of that (as a voter) and many well educated politicians are a proof of this as well.

    I was reading the site that posed the question ‘what’s your dangerous idea’.And a person had commented that the dangerous assumption is that man has been made evil by culture or environmental factors – but its hard to accept that man can be inherantly so evil.

    Similarly I have started to experience that the right stick/carrot is needed to ensure that the balance /equilibrium is attained.
    Be it within oneself or in the systems working outside.

    Flogging of politicians openly – as you humorously pointed as being a part of a solution would be good – but again it seemed more like short termed solution :) ….(carrots look more effective than sticks for long term)

    The objective is : to have the system clean – so (A) the corrupt politician becomes
    honest
    –or—
    (B) the corrupt voter becomes honest.

    Again, coming back to thinking — What incentives have to be created to make these entities behave thus?…..

    Regards,
    Shivani.

  • Patel

    I think there are a few perspectives from which you can see “democracy” in India.

    Atanu I like your perspective which says that we are missing the backend of democracy and only have a facade that gives the illusion of it being present in India.

    Or you can say that we have a democracy, but a very stupid one.

    Or you can say that we don’t have a democracy because political candidates in India are all equally opportunistic and fickle, so choice A on the ballot box is usually quite similar to choice B.

    I don’t think you will get the debate you were hoping for with this post because I don’t see many people disagreeing with you. The only ones who might put up a fight are the ones who have been using the democracy card when legitimizing India’s sorry economic performance.

    I like KarmaYogi’s post. He tries to find solutions to the problem. But I can’t say any of his suggestions will ever come to fruition. Perhaps we should all look this issue from the perspective of a respectable indian politician, there has to be at least one or two, and see what policy reforms they can present that have the chance of improving India’s governance without finding too much political resisitance. No solution will be easy to impliment, but perhaps we can find the least difficult one and start there.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Setting up Training academies like the ones existing for IAS, IPS etc.

    I disagree on both points but disagree really strongly on any training academy.
    IAS has created nothing but a snobby class of indians who thought that they are gods gift to humanity. your suggestion of a nts will create more smug folks and wont do anything in raising the bar amongst politicos. The goverment project in india are the suckiest. The goverment cant pull off any thing big any more. All the major political parties need to do is to come up with a primary election system inside the registered and paying members for the party and see what happens to the quality of candidate. This is not to say that curroption is not there in such systems but is allways less.
    I also think that the sorry way in which property is registered, identities examined and backgrounds checked in an alleged IT super power is also holding us back.
    A government clerk in any other society that is worth emulating can check
    these records sitting on their computer.
    The piss poor ration card is the only common piece of paper that they have come up with to identify folks.

  • http://parvativetri.blogspot.com Parvati

    Everybody wants a free lunch everywhere in the world, and more so in India, where there are several loopholes that enable this free lunch to become a well institutionalized reality.

    The solution is to institutionalize the opposite fact of NO FREEBIES for the voter nor convenient spaces in govt. /law / policies / institutions for the politicians or for the contract granters to live a life of “might is right”.

    Maybe we can study the nations like Singapore and NZ that have minimum corruption, and see whether it is solely because of the innate moral tone of the citizens or the law of the land or both; and see how to map the same to our India, in such a manner that it works to make the voter sensible and uncorrupt.

  • http://pb-intel.blogspot.com/ Nath

    I’m a bit late, I suppose, but here are my two cents:

    India is rated as one of the most corrupt countries with a “corruption perception index” (CPI) of 2.8…

    Corruption is a major problem in India, true, but I don’t think that CPI is a particularly meaningful indicator of corruption. My problem is with their methodology: many factors affect perception, and still more affect reported perception. There are countries on that list I know to be far more corrupt than the list indicates.

    When I was growing up in Nagpur, I had a friend who used to proclaim “India is ruled by toads” whenever we discussed India’s politicians.

    Your friend was close to the truth. I have a correction to make, however: India is ruled not by toads, but by lizards (scroll down to the bit about reptiles). The voter has little choice but to continue to vote for lizards, lest the wrong lizard gets in. I think Mr. Adams hit the nail on the head; even a (hypothetical) ethical, educated society could still be forced to vote lizards into power. The immediate problem to solve is not the quality of the voters (which admittedly does leave much to be desired), but the quality of the lizards. (To the lizards’ credit, they have been doing a better job of late than that to which they are accustomed.)

  • http://apratyaksh.blogspot.com Abhinav Goyal

    Atanu,

    Your comment is not at all fair. You are merely stating the obvious! ;)

    -Abhinav

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/gopalms/ SloganMurugan

    In states that suffer from serious corruption of democracy, you have the Maoists, PWG, Mujahideens, etc. Hope it does not spread.

  • Shiboo

    The statement “the Indian voter is corrupt” implies that the point of debate is whether the average Indian votes corruptly. Though it might seem like splitting hairs, this statement is not the same as saying “the Indian citizen is corrupt”

    How does one define corruption in the act of voting? The only way a voter can vote corruptly is if he sells he votes for inducements and inducements alone, i.e. there is no philosophical, political underpinning to the vote. I don’t think the average Indian voter votes for inducements alone. Now, it would be a plausible claim that the average Indian voter votes on the basis of a very narrow political agenda related to the self-interests of his small group, whether you define that group on the basis of caste, religion, region or class. That, while not desirable, is not corrupt voting. Ultimately, in all forms of government, interest groups find one way of pushing their competing narrow political agenda; in a democracy this happens through voting.

  • indian

    how a voter can be corrupt
    he/she is jast living for better life.
    voter never has say
    as we have borrowed a imperlist system (indians were not allowed to choose the consition or have a say ,so called leader of india have im not saying they all were notleader but leader should be guided by his /her suppoter and cirumstances).if the time was not not right for public oppinion then a prooer timeframe should be given.anyway now we are in process of long
    correction only time ie developent of mind is cure.

  • jai

    India is no great country,but it can’t be maligned by western people as they are not clean themselves. I think western countries are the most corrupt and their MNCs corporations are the most corrupt
    who bribe politicians in their own country to govt officials in Africa Asia& Latin America to get their job done. The institutional racism practised in the west is worse than the caste system in India which is eradicating at faster rate then poverty in China.
    If you are colored person in the west you have to live like as 2nd class citizen, even if you are born to 2nd or 3rd gerneration settlers, you are also looked down upon and viewed with suspicion.
    T
    he British had stolen all the Indias wealth to become rich,
    Indian craftsmen were handicapped under british rule in order to sell goods maid in England. Indians were butchered like goats and sheeps and systemic corruption was introduced in order to run the Empire.

    American and Australian lives on a stolen land obtained by butchering the native Indian & abroginal people respectively, they still are the most disadvantaged section of the society. The African
    American are still treated as shit and pariah in majority white America, they are allowed to die without any aid after hurricaine Katrina.

    All the world wealth was stolen by West under colonialism in last couple of centuries. Millions of innocents are butchered and slaughtered by the west in World war I & II, vietnam war, gulf war and now Iraq and Afghanistan. The invasion of Iraq is the biggest conspiracy to control Iraqi oil by the western countries.
    All the defence deals and arms supply in the west are done by paying kickbacks. Even the outsourcing lobby in the west accept bribes in awarding contracts to India. India is a kid in front of West instutionalised and silent corruption and conspiracy, what is CIA and FBI ?? do you have an answer
    You still call yourself clean, its amazing mate.