Gujarat Experiment

May 28, 2010
Suresh Naig

Gujarat continues to be the laboratory, experimenting newer things by the day. (This has nothing to do with the views of Setalwad et al castigating Gujarat and Modi as the cauldron of Hindutva experiment).

Immediately after independence, Gujarat embarked on an experiment where employer-employee relationship was redefined as entrepreneur-enterprise relationship by Gujarat Milk Marketing Federation. Every peasant became an entrepreneur reaping better profit accruing out of co-operative movement. Gujarat model was purely indigenous venture derived out of the positive aspects of Indian joint family system.

The success of this enterprise is due to the recognition that collective responsibility is the sum total of individual responsibilities and in no way it is an excuse for individual irresponsibility. Gujarat's success in rural business enterprise continues to remain unique and many other states have emulated it, making India as the largest producer of milk in the world today.

The second experiment of Gujarat was with the labour force. Gujarat had a lot to gain from its participative trade union movement in contrast to the classical trade union movement in other parts of the country. While trade union movements elsewhere draws their sustenance from their distrust of employers, Gujarat's trade union movement is built on mutual trust.

Another significant experiment of Gujarat was with paid vs free services. When most of the states in India offer free power to agriculturists, Gujarat offered their peasants two choices; uncertain free power with power cuts or assured 24 hours supply chargeable. Agriculturists in Gujarat chose the better alternative of paid power than an unsure free power. We all know that nothing in this world is for free; if it is not paid directly it would be paid indirectly. When distribution of freebies won votes in other states, it miserably back fired for opposition parties in Gujarat.

Now Gujarat is embarking on a new experiment of compulsory voting in local elections. Though the bill was returned by the Governor for reconsideration, I feel it will be eventually signed by the Governor, if presented again. The chief election commissioner had said compulsory voting is not workable, since it had failed in many other countries.

We have exhibited certain unique models in the past for which we never depended on any other country to emulate from and they were our original inventions.

We have seen Lalu Prasad continuing as surrogate chief minister of Bihar, even after forcibly made to quit his post, by making his wife as the chief minister.

We have seen a central Minister - Shibu Soren going underground and untraceable when a court issued warrants against him.

We have seen an independent MLA Madu Koda becoming the chief minister of a state by external support.

We have also seen the voters could be bribed openly as seen in bye elections of Tamil Nadu and recent local elections of Bangalore. All the above things had no parallel and they were our original experiments as the largest democratic country.

Just because compulsory voting has failed in other countries it need not fail in our country. It may even pave the way for a new and profitable experiment in Gujarat. When voting is made compulsory, someone may move the court to incorporate "none" button in the EVM to register his/her rejection of all the candidates. It will open the Pandora's box; when the "none" button has scored more votes than all the other candidates put together, the very process of majority will be questioned, leading to uncertainty. This will make the candidates think twice in spending huge money on elections because their ROI is doubtful, paving way for more equitable competition, resulting in honest persons contesting elections with adequate scope of winning the elections.

Let us welcome Gujarat's experiment on compulsory voting; who knows it may turn out to be the inadvertent right choice initiated by wrong politicians.

A marketing professional, yet believes in talking only the truth. An optimistic maverick remains a puzzle, puzzling others.
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