Friday, August 13, 2010

Govt expresses inability to enforce compulsory voting

NEW DELHI: Observing that people cannot be forced to vote till they have a choice to elect candidates with a clean image, government on Friday expressed its inability to enforce compulsory voting in the country.

"Till the time people have a choice to vote for candidates with clean image, they cannot be forced to vote. It would be fatal for democracy and lead to disillusionment," law minister M Veerappa Moily said in the Lok Sabha. He was replying to a private member's bill on compulsory voting tabled by J P Agarwal (Cong), who later withdrew it.

Moily said while he was not against the idea of compulsory voting, "a stand alone law won't take us anywhere."

He said enacting another law was not a remedy . "It should not be ornamental. We have to add flesh and blood in it," he said.

The law minister said the Dinesh Goswami Committee formed in the 1990s had delved into the subject of compulsory voting and recommended against it as it was found to be impractical.

He said situations like illness, preoccupation and use of force by political parties can prevent people from voting.

While expressing concern over low voter turnout, Moily said it was not a reflection on the electorate.

He claimed that illiterate people were more aware of their rights as voters than the educated lot.

Moily said there was no dispute with any aspect of the bill moved by Agarwal as this was the ultimate goal.

"This Bill has provided a roadmap on how to enlighten the electorate and reach that goal. Voting is as much a duty of the voters as it is to taxation and other such duties. Voters are the foundation of this great democracy. It is a fundamental duty every citizen should perform," he said.

Pointing out that about 31 crore out of the 71 crore voters do not vote, Moily wondered if candidates winning with less than one-sixth of the votes polled reflected the will of the electorate.

"Clearly, we cannot boast of being the largest democracy with the largest electorate in the world, if this situation prevails. It will be a tragedy, travesty of democracy...we have to set this right," he said.

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