Selection of candidates by the people is the key to democratic representation
It has been reported that workers of the Samtel Glass Unit and Samtel Colour Unit in Kota, Rajasthan, and their families have decided to use the “None of the Above” (NOTA) option during the next assembly elections on December 1. Numbering about 1800, the workers have suffered greatly since their factories closed down a year ago. They have been protesting since then, but have not even received the salaries due to them, amounting to more than Rs 40 crore. Despite their appeals, neither the MLA nor the MP, as well as the leaders of the two main parties of the ruling class in the state, the Congress and BJP, have bothered to address their concerns. Pressing the NOTA button during the polls is their way of expressing their anger at the ruling class politicians and their political parties.
It will be recalled that in September the Supreme Court ruled that voters must have the right to reject all the available candidates in secrecy if they so desire. The upcoming elections will be the earliest in which voters will be able to exercise this option.
The decision of the Samtel Workers to exercise the NOTA option reflects the bitter reality faced by the working class and toiling people under the existing political system. In general, the so called representatives of the people carry out the agenda of the wealthy classes, and enrich themselves inthe process. Thus, in the last couple of decades, both the Congress and the BJP have pursued the course of globalisation through liberalisation and privatisation, which has led to the closure of thousands of factories and resulted in lakhs of workers being thrown out of their jobs. All other parties of the ruling class have also supported this same agenda. As a result, the working class and people really have no choice when it comes to voting.
It is this situation that has led to the demand of people for the right of rejection during the polls, which is the context in which the Supreme Court gave its verdict on NOTA. However the Supreme Court ruling is such that the exercising of the NOTA option cannot change the outcome of the election. Even if the great majority of electors vote for “none of the above”, the candidate who wins the largest number of votes cast, however few, will be declared victorious! He or she can then assume his seat in the legislature or even government.
What this shows is the need to go beyond NOTA if the people are to really exercise their choice in an election. The working class and toiling people, who form the vast majority of the electorate, need to choose their own representatives, those who will faithfully carry out the people’s agenda. However, in the present system this cannot work. The candidates of the political parties sponsored by the bourgeoisie are given special rights and privileges under the electoral laws as “recognised” political parties. This is apart from the huge resources they enjoy, in terms of money and other resources, muscle power, links with the administration, control of the media, and so on. These advantages ensure that people’s candidates outside of these parties very rarely can win the election, and even if they do, they have practically no role in the legislative process or government.
What is needed is that not just political parties, but all kinds of people’s organisations, such as trade unions and other workers’ organisations, women’s organisations, mohalla committees and others, should have the right to nominate candidates to represent them in power. The electorate in each constituency must have the sole right to select from these candidates those who will finally contest the elections. The candidates of ‘recogised” political parties must not have privileges compared to others. This would prevent the highly undemocratic situation we have at present, where the electorate is effectively forced to choose between candidates imposed on them by the high commands of certain political parties. The entire campaign must be fully financed by the state, and no party or any other organisation or individual should be permitted to spend money for the election campaign. An elected constituency committee must supervise the whole process in each constituency.
The current practice whereby the government is chosen only by the largest single party or coalition, and other legislators have no say, must also be done away with. Further, in order to ensure the continuous accountability of the elected legislators and members of the government to the electorate, the constituency committees must organise the process of regular rendering of accounts by the elected representatives. This would include recalling candidates who have failed to fulfil their mandate, and also enabling the electorate itself to initiate legislation.
In short, the present political and electoral system is deeply weighted against the interests of the majority of electors, and the people need to fight for substantial changes that will end the stranglehold of the political parties of the exploiting classes.