Ahmedabad: The latest controversy surrounding Narendra Modi is his decision to make voting mandatory for local body elections.
The Gujarat Assembly has on Saturday passed the Gujarat Local Authorities Law (Amendment) Bill 2009 which enforces this. Registered voters who do not participate in local elections will have a month to explain their absence; they may face action.
Speaking exclusively to NDTV's Rohit Bhan, the Gujarat Chief Minister described why the new law is exactly what Gujarat needs.
Transcript of Narendra Modi's interview:
"It's not a controversial bill. This exercise has been accepted in 32 countries across the globe. Even in India, it has been debated so it's not controversial. It's an attempt to strengthen democracy. Today, our democratic and polling system is political-party-centric. It should be voter-centric. In our electoral system, it's the parties who are the forefront. The voter is missing. When we make voting mandatory, the voter will become all-important and the political parties will have to address the concerns of all, not just region-specific voters.
Also, it will cut down electoral expenses. There have been concerns that black money which has become a parallel economy...and this is one small attempt to cut down on poll expenses and eliminate black money.
Another important aspect of the bill is the option of negative voting. We will allow the voter to express his anger anguish. If he doesn't like any of the 10 candidates listed there, he will go to the booth and go for negative vote. Even the political parties will become alert and have to respect the voter.
After 26/11 attacks, people came out in large numbers to raise their voice but when it comes to elections, just a mere 20 to 25 per cent voter came out to vote. We have to bring drawing-room politics to the voter booth. We have to link voting with responsibility of voters towards our electoral system.
We are not forcing people. There are countries which have implemented this successfully. Also out of 100, just 50 vote and then people who get just 20 to 22 votes will win and they will decide what is good for the remaining 80, this should end. Gujarat has made a beginning.
There should be no apprehension (about penalty for not voting). A regulatory mechanism would be worked out and a committee will be set up which will decide. I do believe that can't a citizen of this country take out just half-hour in 5 years for an important electoral exercise? There should be a debate on this.
Gujarat has taken the lead now, it's for other states to replicate this and even should be made mandatory for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls."