Almost exactly a decade ago, the day after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections were announced, The Times of India launched its special ‘Dance of Democracy’ coverage, bringing readers a 360° ringside view of one of the great wonders of the modern world. In every election since, whether general or state, ‘Dance of Democracy’ has sought to empower, entertain and enlighten you with ground-level reportage, numbers-driven analyses, and agenda-setting thought pieces. We will do all that and more in the weeks to come, capturing the sights, smells and sounds of the mother-of-all political carnivals on earth, even as we help you separate choice from noise. Ours is by far the largest democracy in the known universe, equal to the population of the next five democracies, including the US and Brazil. We have been called a flawed democracy, and indeed there are times when we find ourselves drowning in hopelessness and cynicism, when the only change we see is for the worse. But it is also the flaws that help us appreciate beauty when it shines through. And there is no greater beauty than to behold the will of the people being given voice without their having to resort to violence. “Ballot over bullet” has become a clichéd newspaper headline, but it’s one of those clichés we should never take for granted. Imagine the power of 815 million people exercising their constitutionally-given franchise in a largely disciplined and peaceable manner, voting in and out representatives and governments that they, in their collective wisdom, believe will or won’t serve their interests. There is a magic to it that people in totalitarian states can never grasp, and those in smaller democracies can only wonder at. How can a nation where so many cannot read or write, or get a decent meal a day, or have access to basic amenities like water and electricity show such dignity in the face of so much adversity? Much of the credit goes to our founding fathers, who set a path that their often-lessthan-illustrious successors have not been able to deviate from (except one, and she paid the price when she did call an election).
No one can dispute that the ‘system’ has imperfections. We know only too well how routinely and horribly our elected representatives let us down, through sloth, corruption and worse — forgetting that they are meant to be servants, not masters. But at least there is a check-and-balance in the form of elections. They give us a chance to hold our representatives accountable. The Times of India will try to help you make the best decision you can — not by telling you whom you should vote for, because that’s your call to make and nobody else’s, but by bringing you all the information and insight you need. The stakes are huge — for you, and for the nation. These elections could well shape the destiny of India, for better or for worse. (We can only hope it will be for the better.) The best thing about an election is that each of us has a voice — an equal music, if you will. An opportunity such as this comes to us but once in five years. Do you want to let it pass you by? Democracy, in its purest form, is about the power of one. Be the one.