Low voter turnout : A wake-up call for India’s democracy

The 2024 parliamentary elections in India have witnessed a notably low voter turnout, a trend that has raised concerns among political analysts, civil society, and the general populace. One of the principal reasons for this apathy among voters is the perception that political parties, in their selection of candidates, have overlooked merit, public opinion, ideology, commitment, integrity, and qualifications. Instead, candidates with dubious backgrounds—often tainted by criminal and corrupt activities—have been favored under the pretext of “winnability.” This practice has led to widespread disenchantment with the electoral process and a growing sense of disillusionment among the electorate.

Why a party can get more votes, but win fewer seats | India News - Times of India

India’s democracy is founded on the principles of fair representation, accountability, and the selection of leaders who embody the values and aspirations of the populace. However, in recent years, there has been a troubling shift in how candidates are selected for elections. Political parties have increasingly prioritized candidates’ perceived ability to win elections over their ethical standing or capability to serve the public effectively.

The concept of “winnability” has become a dominant criterion in candidate selection. This focus on electoral success at any cost often means that individuals with significant financial resources, strong local muscle power, or established political networks are chosen, regardless of their moral or professional qualifications. This approach undermines the very essence of democratic representation and public service.

Candidates with criminal records or histories of corruption are often perceived as having the means to mobilize votes through financial inducements or coercion. This practice not only promotes unethical behavior but also discourages honest, capable individuals from entering politics, as the playing field is heavily skewed in favor of those who can navigate and exploit these murky waters.

The electorate’s growing cynicism is rooted in the belief that their votes do not translate into genuine representation or effective governance. When political parties repeatedly nominate candidates with questionable backgrounds, it sends a message that ethical considerations and public welfare are secondary to the quest for power. This perception has been exacerbated by numerous instances where elected officials, once in power, have been implicated in various scandals, further eroding public trust.

The direct consequence of this disillusionment is a decline in voter turnout. Many voters feel that participating in the electoral process is futile if the candidates do not represent their interests or values. The sense that the system is rigged in favor of corrupt and criminal elements leads to voter apathy and disengagement. This trend is particularly alarming in a democracy where high voter participation is crucial for the legitimacy and accountability of the elected government.

Political parties play a critical role in shaping the democratic process. Their decisions on candidate selection have far-reaching implications for the health of democracy. By prioritizing winnability over merit, they compromise on the quality of governance and leadership. It is imperative for political parties to recognize the long-term damage this approach can cause and to reform their candidate selection processes.

To address these issues, comprehensive electoral reforms are necessary. First, political parties must commit to greater transparency in their candidate selection processes. They should establish clear criteria that prioritize integrity, public service, and professional qualifications over financial muscle or political connections.

Second, there should be stricter enforcement of laws that disqualify individuals with serious criminal charges from contesting elections. This would help ensure that candidates with clean records and a genuine commitment to public service are given the opportunity to represent the people.

Third, the introduction of inner-party democracy can help in selecting candidates who are more representative of party members’ and supporters’ views. This approach can reduce the influence of a few powerful individuals within parties and promote a more democratic and merit-based selection process.

Beyond reforms, there is a need to re-engage the electorate. Civic education campaigns that highlight the importance of voting and the impact of their choices on governance can help rekindle public interest in the electoral process. Additionally, providing platforms for direct interaction between voters and candidates can help build trust and accountability.


The low voter turnout in the 2024 parliamentary elections serves as a wake-up call for India’s democracy. It underscores the urgent need for political parties to rethink their candidate selection strategies and for systemic reforms to ensure that elections are contested by individuals who embody the principles of merit, integrity, and public service. Only by addressing these fundamental issues can the faith of the electorate be restored and the true spirit of democracy be upheld.


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