Majoritarian Views– Will of the People or a Select Few?

Democracy was built on the belief that everyone was equal and all views and opinions were important, irrespective of the kind of household you belonged to. Majoritarian views were to be given due importance since it changed policies in different administrative set-ups to alter it accordingly in order to bring about changes necessary in that particular day and age. The entire concept behind this was that people could choose what governed their lives. Rules and regulations should be for the good of the masses. In order to do so, the Parliament came into being, consisting of a group of people representing different factions of society would form a council where issues that were important could be spoken about. In order for these councilmen to be chosen, voting would occur and these representatives would in turn bring about the necessary change.

Democracy is considered to be for the people and by the people. However, when majoritarian views are swayed by vote-bank politics and the opinions of a select few, then the debate of whether democracy is for the people or not comes into play. The debate to ascertain whether the majority actually represents the views of the populace or not is being fought on very thin ice. Imagine a scenario of 100 people, trying to make a decision. 51 people vote for the topic and 49 people vote against it. According to the definition of democracy, 51 people will get their way. However, 49 people will go unrepresented. How is this just or correct then? How does the entire concept of representation of the majority work when such a huge population goes unheard?

In public economics, we have Arrow’s impossibility theorem, which states that there is no way to devise a collective decision–making process that satisfies a few commonsense requirements and works in all circumstances. This basically means that there is no means to reach a policy decision that satisfies the masses and increases individual utility of all. The theorem implies that individual preferences cannot be translated into social preferences. The only way this entire theorem works , is if there is a homogeneity in individual preferences, that is, if everyone prefers the same thing. Otherwise a dictatorial choice, overrides the choice of a single person ( in this case , we can take it as a minority faction in the society instead of an individual). Think of it in terms of the example of 51 to 49 votes that was stated earlier. If in this scenario the minority ( in this case the 49 voters) were to buy off or threaten or by any other means make the 51 voters or a percentage of the 51 voters, vote in favor of the 49 voters. The entire vote will go in favor of the 49 voters. This concept of buying off votes , in order to take advantage of the entire definition of majority , is pretty common in today’s world and is known as ‘log rolling’. We find many politicians and businessmen play with the entire theory of quid pro quo in order to get their way.

This brings the entire concept of democracy and majoritarian views and rule in question. The Chief Justice of India (on the recent judgment over article 377) had stated, “…Freedom of choice cannot be scuttled or abridged on the threat of criminal prosecution and made paraplegic on the mercurial stance of majoritarian perception.” Very rightly he said that the perception and opinions of the majority should never hinder the progress of the nation. What is right is always right. Archaic views and close-mindedness should never come in the way of making the correct decisions. In the Sabarimala Temple dispute, even a state like Kerala  which prides itself on having the highest literacy rate of around 99% in the country, failed to understand the concept of menstruation as being a normal biological function of the female body and termed the girls of its own state as impure. The saddest part in this entire debacle was the sight of women themselves protesting against their own entry into the temple.

In situations like this, the existence of an educated and clear minded judiciary becomes imperative, in order to take decisions that benefit us in the long run, even if it goes against traditional views and a majority of people. Majoritarian views should never come in the way of progress of the nation.

Picture Credits : aier.org

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