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Many Differences Between India And Canada’s Electoral Process

By Balwant Sanghera

Canada and India have a lot in common with each other. Both are members of the Commonwealth. Both are well established democracies. Both  are peace loving countries. Both India and Canada have the same legislative, executive and judicial structures based on the British model. Both are models of multiculturalism. Furthermore, both of these countries have been brought closer together by a very powerful Indian Diaspora in Canada. However, despite all of these similarities, there are a number of differences which are natural for two independent sovereign nations. In this context, there are a few things that are rather surprising for a visitor. Some of these disparities stand out more than others. They may seem to be quite understandable and normal for a resident of India but to a visitor they are somewhat surprising. Take for example, the nomination process to seek public office.

In order to run for public office, be it provincial or federal, in Canada, the aspiring nominee must have the confidence of the members of his/her political party’s local constituency or riding. Most likely the potential candidate will be residing in that constituency or riding. Once nominated that person gets busy in raising money for the campaign and putting together a campaign team. Of course, the party headquarters offer some logistical support and advice. However , the main onus is on the candidate’ local campaign team. To ensure that the candidate is right for the party, the party leader has to sign his /her nomination papers. In case of India, the candidate is appointed by the leader in consultation with the party’s top brass. Thus, there seems to be almost no involvement at the local level. Furthermore, the candidate must have deep pockets. As a matter of fact, in addition to financing his/her own campaign the candidate may be expected to contribute to the party coffers.

The other rather interesting difference between the countries is the VIP culture. In Canada, even the Prime Minister has minimum security and is fairly accessible to the public. Same goes for the provincial premiers. The cabinet members, whether provincial or federal rarely have any security around them and freely mingle with the public. Of couse,if there is any implied threat to an elected member the relevant police force takes approprite measures. In India, perhaps the elected officials don’t feel comfortable in mingling with the public or there are some other reasons, they have a lot of security around them. Even some high ranking officials have a lot of security guards around them. Regardless,like it or not,the VIP culture is thriving in India.

Then there is the question of dynastic politics. In Canada it is almost unheard of. A person’s ability and sevice to his/her community,province or country are the primary requrements for success in public life . However, in India,it is the family name that makes a big difference. A person’s family name and background are his/her ticket to higher office and fame no matter whether he/she deserves it.

Irrespective of these disparities both India and Canada can learn a lot from each other.Both are the beacons of freedom and inclusion. Both are great examples of resourcefulness and resilience.

Link columnist Balwant Sanghera, retired School Psychologist and Community Activist , is currently on a visit to India.

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