Independents – Bane or Boon?

Recently, our esteemed Prime Minister made certain observations which allegedly go against the concept of independents in the election. Without getting into any discussion about validity of prime minister’s comments (with expected clarifications and rebuttals in future), I would simply put forth the case for need of independents in the election.

In any form of democracy, independents are a big part of watchdog apparatus. They reflect everything that a democracy is supposed to be. They represent the alternate opinions of society, the disillusionment of masses with entrenched political entities and above all, the freedom of choice that is guaranteed to the citizens in a democracy. And there are times when they bring out the change in society representing a completely new way of thinking or purpose. At other times, the independents manifest themselves as rebels from recognized political parties – and that again reflects the distance of that political party from some of its supporters. That again is a healthy sign in a democracy. Last but not the least, many of these independents are people with meager resources – a fact which highlights the fact that money is not the main ingredient for FIGHTING an election (even though it may be in winning an election :-)). Moreover, such people do add color and possibly, humor to the proceedings – something we can all do with in these times.

So, why is the debate on role of independents in democracy? One doesn’t need to look beyond the political parties for finding the reason – simply because they are the only ones who are complaining. The presence of independents upsets their carefully nurtured caste and communal equations. These independents are threat to their not-so-noble intentions of exploiting divisive emotions in the electorate. For those who have done real work for the people and can show that, it doesn’t matter who is their opponent. But for those who rely on nefarious designs, it is certainly a matter of big concern and there are the ones who cry foul of this essential democratic tradition.

Agreed there are some non-serious candidates. But then it is not a society election where a 50-60 votes here-or-there would cause an upset. The electoral mass comprises lakhs of votes, and is intelligent enough to boot out the non-serious blokes at the first opportunity. Think of it this way – these candidates with no hope or chance of winning end up with forfeiture of deposit which is unexpected income for the ever-empty coffers of the government.

As for serious independent candidates, it is for political parties to get the message. If the candidate carries a potent message and can upset the applecart of the established political class, then the polity should definitely heed to that message. It can choose to improve its own message to co-opt that message or it can choose to change its message to win over other sections of society. The complainants are only those parties that are devoid of any ideological base to do either of above tinkering with their message. They have no other recourse. And they do need to get the boot.

So, independents is the way to go in a democracy – and for those who don’t agree, the electorate will anyway show them the door. Amen.

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