DELH-XIT: Does India need referendums?

Referendums in India, Does India need referendums

Monsoon mornings in Bangalore can be very very lazy. Today, I sleep talked my alarm to a forever snooze. And woke up an hour later. Even at 7:30 am there was no sign of sunlight. Next to me, tugged under the purple blanket like a log of teakwood was my husband, snoring deeply and peacefully. The ease with which he transcends any and every weather condition, 25 alarms and stubborn mosquitoes – never fails to amuse me.

At 9 I said Hola to my cab driver and sat in my upgraded Mini to Prime with free wifi cab. The next 1 hour ride to office would give me plenty of time to mull over – except ofcourse the continuous distractions of 70-80-90 % sale notifications that keep flashing on my phone screen every 30 seconds.

Exits and Inspiration

Arvind Kejriwal on Delhi statehood refrendum

My cab driver shifts through various short-cuts, avoiding main roads and busy traffic signals. I think one needs to know when to make the right exit. Was UK ready? And if Brexit was not enough, in the same week England was made to exit in the Euro Cup by Iceland in a humiliating 2-1 defeat. That must hurt.

Inspired by everything, Delhi CM’s AAP government ordained that Delhi may conduct a referendum on full statehood to Delhi. However, there is no provision in the Constitution of India that allows any such process, but it also does not deny it. A referendum places a law that has already been passed by a legislature to public vote. Something that happens at dinner time in every household with kids who refuse to eat vegetables. The law passed by the determined mother is questioned and public vote is made to feed maggi and not stuffed ‘karela’.

Situation, however, differs when the food under discussion is beef. Maharashtra govt banned eating beef in the state because cows are Holy and it is absolutely important to save the Holy creatures from getting butchered and eaten. What if people are allowed to vote on I have a right to eat what I want subject and the results say things we just don’t want to hear.

Disagreements and Complexities

Referendums in India

India is not new to the idea of referendums. We have had a history of mass disagreements. Some succeeded and some failed. While there are many which are waiting for their turn to be heard. With a 125 crore population and over 90 lac cars (and counting), Delhi is every bit of complex. Countries like Switzerland, where every procedure is put to a public referendum, whenever it seems important, has much lesser mood swing issues than Indian politics. AAP has had its share of good deeds as well as unexpected disappointments. And it might not be a bad idea to first fully develop a mature and crystal clear plan before rolling out a referendum.

Democratic or Chaotic?

Democracy, referendums in India, political chaos

Are referendums against the very idea of democracy on which Indian Constitution is built? Indian democracy allows people to choose their representatives who then work on policy, agenda, plan and process. But, most of the times these representatives end up becoming a pain point. Posing a deaf ear to people’s problems and a mad eye to their curious questions. And the only thing that can possibly challenge the longevity of this ‘pratha’ is the never ending scripts of ‘K’ series TV soaps that just don’t seem to run out of ideas.

Are referendums the answer to people’s lack of faith in political will and intention? Well, in a large and plural country like India, referendums for every cause might mean more chaos. Maybe an initiative based recall would be a better idea. A more regional referendum which demands a separate statehood, can lead to further complications. Everyone wants to have an independent piece of land. Are we ready to face the domino effect such referendums can bring? Have we thought this through? Or do we need another round of black coffee and cinnamon donut? 

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2 Comments on "DELH-XIT: Does India need referendums?"

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4 years 2 months ago

Refernedums are an important part of any successful democracy. But whose opinion matters most is a debate on its own. Experts vs the pleb? But then heeding the words of a small community of experts is not supposed to be democracy. Such is the loophole hence present in democracy. I loved your referendum analogy. 🙂

4 years 1 month ago

Yes, India needs to permit referendums on issues such as banning beef. Individual states should allow their citizens to participate in referendums rather than have a small group speak on their behalf.