Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why AAP's Post-Poll "Referendum" Has Set A Dangerous Precedent

AAP recently introduced referendum for asking public if they should form a government in Delhi or not. This is the first time in India that a political party is going to "get" public opinion on what direction to take.

This move has received welcome from many corners and also has become butt of jokes for many. There has been some criticism of this move, citing the amount of money that will flow into the pockets of telecom providers at a standard rate of Rs. 2/SMS. However, there is one angle that people probably haven't looked at with respect to AAP.

This move to go to public for every (major) issue absolves AAP from having a clear stance on any issue before they go for elections. In the manifesto, AAP can skip taking a stance key policy issues. For example, when asked about the stance on issues like terrorism and national security, they can raise their hands and make an excuse saying "we will consult the people at the right time". This is a very likely scenario which could unfold in the days preceding Lok Sabha elections.

Why is this dangerous?
SMS polls or any referendum can be rigged, and is the most unreliable form of understanding public opinion. This will most likely culminate with party leadership pre-deciding their agenda on issues prior to elections and later conducting sham SMS polls or referendum to use it as excuse for decisions against public interest.

Because of this gimmick of direct democracy, for the first time in the history of India we could see educated masses supporting a party with anti-India agenda that has not been spelt out in their manifesto or in their policy documents. This is very dangerous for politics of the country where established parties with clear stance could be pushed to the back in favour of party with completely hidden ideological agenda feigning people's opinions.

This gimmick could also be used to pass the buck to public for decisions that backfire. But that is not much of a threat to India.

Discourage Sham Referendums
Any party that goes to elections has to clarify stance on key policy issues. They can go back to public for internal party policies before elections, but after the elections, any such attempt on key policy issues that doesn't go through election commission should be discouraged, because it will in all likelihood be a fraud played on people.

AAP's untrustworthy method of seeking of public opinion has set a bad precedent. Any party could use this modus operandi to impose unpopular decisions on public under the guise of "direct democracy".


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