FOSS and Indian Politics

Finally some good news came for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) when a large Indian National Political Party, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), adopted key points of the FOSS Manifesto as BJP’s IT Vision Document prepared by the FOSS community of India.

It is heartening to know that a mainstream political party recognizes and acknowledges the FOSS movement and adapts it in their election manifesto. We must thank Venky from RedHat and others from the FOSS Community for working hard and make this a reality.

However, our work as community does not stop here. We must go out and convince other political parties the importance of the FOSS. Following are few of the reasons that can appeal to other political parties as well who have vision for India beyond becoming a Prime Minister of the country.

When you think of enabling a billion plus population with Information Technology in the area of e-governance, education, communication, job creation etc., we can not afford to spend billions of rupees or dollars in licensing cost. Not only that, we can not afford to spend valuable foreign currency on acquiring the closed source software. We are already in trouble due to our dependence on oil imports. We surely do not want to fall in same trap regarding software, especially when we boast of being the software super power.

Strategic reasons:
We can not afford to put our sovereignty at stack by using closed source software. We can never know what will be the part of closed source software which can give complete control of our strategic information in the hands of competing foreign powers whether in area of defense or commerce or internal and external security. The FOSS ensures that we are in control of our data and information and IT infrastructure and how it moves between different parties.

Social reasons:
If we ever hope to integrate our large and diverse population, we have to make the IT available in their language and at their terms. FOSS ensures and thrives on people’s participation. This is complete democratic movement where people decides what and how they want to use IT to enrich their lives.

There may be many more reasons why FOSS is superior to closed source software and invite you to share your thoughts on these subject.


Electoral reforms

In India we say and believe that we are governed by a democratically elected representatives. However, if you look at the numbers of voter turn-out and total vote share of wining candidates and political parties they represent, you will be shocked to know that neither individual candidates nor the parties they represent have vote share of more then 40%! If you look at that figure up-side-down the party/government in power has no support of more then 60% of the people if India!

What are the reasons for such a poor record of the people in power to garner wider support of the people they want to govern. What and how can we make systemic changes to elect a government which has wider support base and true mandate of the people of the country?

If we cannot a create a system to create a better representative government in place, we will alway have more and more alienation and discontent within country which can jeopardize the unity and integrity of India as a democratic nation state.

We must look at various challenges India faces today like Kashmir, Naxalites Movements, Maoist uprisings or recent terrorist activities within country in the context of the electoral processes and widely representative democracy.

1. Poor participation of people in electoral process.

We keep hearing that 40, 55 or 60 % voters came to vote. What keeps those 60 to 40 % people participate in the electoral process? Is this apathy of the people? Is that a from of dissent? Is that lack of confidence in the political process and electoral system? Is this due to process being too cumbersome and inconvenient?

If we speak to people about our existing electoral system, we will find that it is a bit of all of the above, which causes poor participation from people.

If in an election there is 50% turnout and wining candidate gates 40% of votes cast to win an election, then at best he or she is representing just 20% of the people in that constituency! He or she will still has to work for those 80% of the people who has rejected him or her! What are the chances of that person working for 100% of the people of that constituency? No wonder we have vote bank politics as it is easier to server just 20% of the people and get and retain power than serve and represent majority of the people of a constituency!

What can be done to improve wider participation in electoral process?

What can be done to elect peoples representatives who are truly representative of majority of the people in a constituency?

Will these systemic changes lead to better representative governments and can address the issues country faces today?