Tag Archives: Politics

51% = legitimacy

With the elections around the corner, the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) election system used in India is being blamed for most of the ills in the Indian political system. This post is the outcome of some of the discussions and conversations that Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute and I have been having regarding the FPTP system.

Briefly, the FPTP system is based on the principle of  “winner-takes-it-all” i.e., the candidate who gets majority of the votes is declared victorious. One of the most common criticisms made against the FPTP system is that candidates win by very narrow margins.  It has been suggested that candidates must get at least 51% of the votes in order for their victory to be deemed as legitimate. It is interesting to note that so far in the history of elections in India, not a single candidate has been dismantled or at least challenged on the grounds that s/he won by 20% of the votes in  the constituency. Therefore, is the criticism misplaced?

Both Barun and I want to suggest that narrow victory margins are in fact the strength of the Indian electoral system. This is because:

Typically, only 50% of the population in the constituency votes in any election. If the victorious candidate has won by 20% of the votes, he has actually received 40% of the votes (given that only 50% of the people are voting).

  1. The narrow victory margins keep the threshold of entry naturally low. This encourages aspirants to enter the electoral fray. If candidates won by 51% of the total votes, it would mean that political parties would have to field heavyweights and stalwarts and it would also discourage novices and independents from contesting the elections.
  2. The narrow victory margins intensifies political competition and keeps candidates and parties on their toes. New aspirants can cut into the vote bases of popular candidates and parties. Moreover, the narrow margins makes it imperative for candidates and parties to attract voters from various backgrounds and widen their appeal instead of confining themselves to gathering votes on the basis of identity and particularistic appeals.

Pride, Prejudice and Politics

Reproduced from the Indian Express this morning. Of course, I wrote it entirely with Kafila in my heart, the Express just got it first :)

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A gay man is given two years of electroshock therapy in a major city hospital to “cure” him — the National Human Rights Commission refuses to file a complaint. A 2004 book on queer politics sees 34 contributors write under their full names, many for the first time. Lesbian women continue to commit suicide rather than be forcibly married. Large sections of the media openly support campaigns against Sec 377 — the 1861 law that criminalises “unnatural offences” — and widely carry an open letter written by Vikram Seth and Amartya Sen against the law. The law still stands over the head of the gay community, but the challenge to it in the Delhi High Court inches towards a verdict. Meanwhile, aravanis (as hijras are known in Tamil Nadu) win a landmark battle for the legal right to have government identification cards and passports issued under “E” as their gender. Continue reading Pride, Prejudice and Politics

A cruel and unusual punishment

(Or how I came to love the Press)
As I stepped out of B.’s house last night, I pulled my jacket close to ward of the cold and veered vaguely to the right as I looked for my car. I felt in the pocket for the car’s central-locking remote, and on finding it, pressed the un-lock button on the device. I heard my sister’s trusty Wagon-R tick-tock in recognition out on the left. On the left course! I had parked the car on left. I usually parked on the right under the streetlight, but this time my space had been taken. So I had parked on the left. I corrected course and lurched decisively to the left – the source of the sound, and the site of the parked car.

My ear it seems, had picked up the sound – measured it in terms of intensity – and my brain had decoded it and accorded it a positional characteristic. So this car was approximately 20 degrees behind my left ear. I looked – there it was, I walked up to it and drove home.

Continue reading A cruel and unusual punishment