5 Things to Remember When You Vote
#1 Your Vote, Your Say
Sadhguru: It is the responsibility of every citizen in a democratic nation that, even if you have not done anything else for this country, at least stand up and vote. Every citizen should be able to examine who you think will be best for this country for the next five years and vote for that party or that person. This freedom should come in everyone's minds, especially the youth. Make sure you vote. Access credible information and exercise your franchise responsibly.
If one has not voted, then one has no right to comment on nation's issues. Voting is not just a means to express that the nation matters; it is a huge privilege.
People keep asking me all the time, whenever there is an election, “Sadhguru, whom should we vote for?” I say, “You use your brains and vote. One thing is you must vote. Who you vote for, you decide.” Because if I give a call and a few million people blindly vote for something, then I’m destroying democracy. I will not do that.
Even if my daughter comes and asks me, “Which party should I vote for?” I won’t tell her. I would tell her, “You need to look at what’s good for you and people around you, and vote for that party, not what I say.”
#2 What’s the Big Deal if I Don’t Vote?
This is people’s idea: “Other people are going to vote, so what is there if I don’t go?” Still we are in that mode where our identities with our family and community are so strong, that we think “If my family and I are doing well, I don't care a damn about what’s happening to the country. On the Election Day holiday, who will go and stand in the queue? We will go on a picnic or cinema, or do something else.” This is because the identification with the family is way bigger than the national identity.
There’s a beautiful story that Mark Twain used to love to say. It happened long time ago, people believed that there were other people on the moon. The longing to communicate with them became very strong. There were no Apollos or other means to communicate. So they got a bright idea, “On one particular given moment, all of us go stand on our rooftops and shout as loud as we can one word together in one voice; the word that we shout to the people on the moon is ‘WHO’ and let’s see what they reply.”
That day came and everybody stood on the rooftops. One person thought, “This is such a rare moment, all these people are going to say one word, but I have a small voice. What is there if I don’t say it? I’ll just listen to this extraordinary moment of everyone saying ‘WHO.’” And that moment came and it passed in total silence.
A day may come on Election Day nobody turns up except those who are herded by political parties with money and whatever goading they are doing. This is an irresponsible way to exist.
#3 Vote Alone, not as Part of a Tribe
When we say “democracy,” every individual is making the choice. That is the basis of democracy – it essentially means we are not interested in your pedigree, where you come from, or who your father was. We are only interested in who you are. That means every citizen has an opportunity to make their life the way they want to make it.
It is very important that we never vote as a religion, race, caste or even as a family. It must be a secret ballot. This has become like two different religions in United States -- are you a Democrat or are you a Republican? People think, “My grandfather was a Republican, my father was a Republican, so I am also Republican.” It’s all decided beforehand.
Right now in United States, I think the deciding factor is only about four to five percent of the people decide who wins or loses. The rest of the people are all already fixed. In India, the percentage probably is in the range of ten to maybe maximum fifteen percent.
I think this party membership should be cancelled - because once I am enrolled, irrespective of whether it's good or not, I am just committed to vote for the party. “Am I right, left, center?” The moment you take this stance, you are destroying democracy and taking it back to feudalism: “We belong to this tribe so we will only vote this way!” You are again taking it back to a place where there will be tribal warfare every time we want to change power. Then there will be no democracy left.
A democracy means every time, you evaluate what stance you want to take. And that is not a permanent stance. It’s very important when election comes, we are able to evaluate and look at who will do a better job for the state or the nation.
#4 No to NOTA!
When you say “NOTA”, you are saying “Nobody is acceptable to me.” Well, it all sounds very intellectual, but you don’t build a nation like this. You have to make a choice. Whatever lousy choice you have, in that you must make a little better lousy choice. If you want to improve this nation long term you cannot abstain and say, “Oh, nobody is fit enough.” Well then, you stand up.
This is a debate going on everywhere in every tea shop, every college: “Oh, all politicians are rubbish, they are thieves.” If we have handed over this nation into the hands of thieves, and we are sitting back here - and we don’t even have the responsibility of voting - we are bigger thieves than them, isn’t it?
When fifty percent of the people are not eating properly, it is not a normal situation for me. It’s a crisis. When such a crisis is there, whether I should vote or not does not even come into question.
So this responsibility has to come. When we do not understand our basic democratic responsibility, we will become unfit for democracy; then something else will take us over.
Democracy is not a spectator's sport. We are a part of it.
#5 People are the Leaders!
The word for democracy in Tamil language is Jananayakam. This means people are the leaders. You are choosing your representative to administer your beloved nation. They are not your masters, but mandated to serve. Once we cast a vote, our job is not done. Every day you have to participate. A politician didn’t land up from heaven or hell, he is just one of you who stood up to do this dirty job for you. The most important duty that a citizenry has is to support them, to see that they do their best. It does not matter which party you elect – that is the people’s choice. Once elected, you have to see how to strengthen their hands and support them. In a country like India, the government's ability to implement policies is limited. The government has policies, but they do not have the hands to implement them. So it is the people who have to implement it at different levels. Unless the people join hands with the government and participate together in making large-scale movements happen, the chances of these movements being successful are low. When people are actively involved in implementing government policies, those in power will also be in line.
Editor’s Note: Watch the new web series, “Nation Matters,” where Sadhguru looks at various aspects of the making of a great nation.