It isn't a new concept. Nations across the world, big and small, hold their political leaders against one another on a public forum in a nationally televised debate. It is a tradition that allows some of the world's most-powerful democracies to better know their competing candidates, their ideologies and where they stand on major issues.
Yet, in India, one of the world's largest democracies, we've rarely demanded such from our representatives.
A petition, started by Shamoly Khera, seeks to change just that.
Khera writes, “In a few days, I am going to be casting my vote for the right party. But like many of you, I am still not sure which party to vote for and why. This is because the campaign in the run up to the polls has been hijacked by ideological battles and shouting matches on television.”
It puts out an urgent call to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, AAP candidate Arvind Kejriwal and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi to a debate at a public and a neutral platform by April 5, 2014.
It even goes further to lay down the key areas of discussion. Khera questions leaders of each of the major parties:
1. The BJP’s campaign has revolved around Narendra Modi’s ‘Gujarat model of development’ and his rousing speeches. But he has not yet explained how such a model can be replicated in states that need different solution sets.
2. The Congress campaign, led by Rahul Gandhi, has promised change, especially in combating corruption. However, he has not told us in detail how his government will be different from the current government.
3. Under Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership the Aam Aadmi Party has captured the nation’s imagination by exposing links between politics and big business. However, I am not sure what policies Mr Kejriwal and his team will introduce if voted.
She further elaborates, “While all parties have a manifesto, none of them have made their economic, social, developmental and strategic policies clear. What good is a manifesto if its contents cannot be debated?”
“Never before has such a debate been held in India, though worldwide it is an accepted norm by which contestants are filtered to perfection,” she writes.
But as ambitious as the idea may sound, it isn't inconceivable. The US presidential debates are the mark of pride for their nation's democracy. Khera adds, “This format is tested with successful results in democracies like the US (since 1987) where a special Commission of Presidential Debates has been established to let the two Presidential candidates come forward and defend their party's policies and reforms.”
Khera, who has been tweeting about it as well, suggests:
@AviBsharma Ideally,a neutral body.The govt should form a dedicated Committee to moderate the public debate.The news media hosts could help.
— Shamoly Khera (@shamolyk) March 25, 2014
This is our way of making the difference. A direct note to the Election Commission of India. Read, sign and share ! #CallForDebate2014
— Shamoly Khera (@shamolyk) March 10, 2014
So, if you agree with Khera and the 21,500 others, hop on to change.org and sign the petition, here