A small happenstance in my life got me thinking on the current state of political literacy in the state and India. Upon being elected MLC, some friends and acquaintances asked me what is MLC what is the difference between an MLA and MLC. I explained the difference along with its functions and was amazed to learn that none of them knew about the system and its process.
With the election season kicking off in the country and Maharashtra also gearing up for all-important corporation, assembly, and general elections from early next year, political literacy is something that requires a major boost, urgently. Indian democracy may be the largest in the world, but while many of them don’t vote, most who do lack maturity in choosing the right candidate. The 2019 Lok Sabha elections is a prime example of it. While the nation saw a voter turnout of 67%, majority of them voted in support of one leader who will lead the country rather than looking at their own constituency and how the representative performed or will perform.
Due diligence of the candidate is required from public which will keep the candidates on their toes. Performance and non-performance should be weighed and decided accordingly, instead of simply exercising the right to vote. Lack of political literacy leads to influx of leaders with a straitjacketed mindset of earning money, name, and fame. This further leads to more uninformed politicians taking centre stage. Barring a few exceptions, a vicious cycle of the same type of leaders being churned out in government and opposition continues.
Indifferent attitude from people ensures that leaders forget the core responsibility of a representative i.e. to work for public in their constituency. Most of the times, leaders do not deserve the portfolios they are holding. However, they are elected by the very same voters.
Just because people cast their vote for the representative does not absolve them of their duties and responsibilities as citizens. People and representatives need to work in tandem to look at the larger picture and ensure the state gets an able and stable government this time around in Maharashtra. Along with political literacy in people, politician literacy is equally important.
They should not be doing things to get themselves re-elected; they should look forward to serving the people well with good policies and concrete measures. People will understand their value and they are bound to be elected back to power since they would want the leader to represent them. This is a win-win situation.
Those wanting a change must educate themselves, in this case, voters, but those who have or will have the power to change must also learn from their past experiences. The political situation is palpable and the next few months will determine whether or not this batch of leaders will survive the acid test of voting. It is also a test case for the country whether people vote according to merit or out of sheer practice.
(The writer is Maharashtra Independent MLC Satyajeet Tambe)