Articles & Blogs

How to decide your voting choice?

12 April 2014
Vineet Nayar

A few years back one of the most prominent newspapers in US ran a poll on their website homepage asking readers their view on a new Bill the Congress was mulling on. The choices were “Oppose”, “Agree” or “Can’t say”. Most people voted for “Oppose”, followed by “Agree” and “Can’t say”. The next day the newspaper announced that this was a fake poll. No such Bill existed!

This wasn’t any April Fool’s Day joke. To me it was the most telling view of our times. As a race we are becoming more and more illogically opinionated and pretty fast ones at that. Perhaps the best display of this alarming trend is during political elections. As India walks into its 16th Lok Sabha Election, I’ve had many hundred conversations with general voters – most of them my friends, acquaintances, contacts – who seemed to have a ready opinion on who they will vote for this time but rarely the hard facts and logic to support their decisions. You may say, well, not every decision in life can be taken in a Science Lab and I’ll agree to that. But then again desperate times, call for desperate measures. This election is very, very crucial for our country. The world is changing dramatically and the next 5-10 years are likely to be extremely crucial for deciding the fate of many nations in the larger economic/social order. Both the threat and opportunity ahead of us is unprecedented.

So consider this year’s vote as perhaps the most important vote you will ever cast in your lifetime and if that is the case then isn’t it important to spend some precious thinking time on the what/why/how of this decision?

An important lesson I learnt in my corporate life was that the first principle of a good decision is the definition of the process of reaching that decision, which is the only way you can keep bias out of the decision. I went in search of possible cues to a similar format to choose the right candidate for elections and was surprised to find none. Of course you may debate against the need of such a structured process; but think of it like this, a great decision will emerge from many good small decisions. Thus if each one of us vote the right way we collectively ensure a great result for our country. More importantly how can we take a good decision unless we follow a logical decision process without a predictable and pre-determined outcome?

So please shut off those TV sets and put down the newspaper for a minute and ask yourself - What is the most important Issue (let’s give it an acronym – MIIS) that you want addressed in this Election? Is it a local development issue or a national growth issue or a theme like corruption? Your ability to discover this MIIS or the most important problem is the first step to a great decision.

As a CEO I used to get some 400 mails on an average every day and tens of calls and messages of varying urgency. During those days I learnt the importance of sharply focusing on the MIIS and the need to prioritize it. Like any developing country our problems are many and we cannot solve all of them through one vote. Thus a collective wisdom on what is the most important issue we want solved is the first step towards a better tomorrow.

So think hard, spend time, energy and logic this time rather than hearsay, emotions or herd mentality to cast your vote. This logical decision making will not take more than a few hours, a handy laptop to analyze manifestoes and other related information on the internet and a few phone calls with some knowledgeable friends/acquaintances.

If even half of us walk this extra mile, we’d have made a huge difference to the fate of our nation.

For all those who think otherwise, I end this piece with this short story - "Tell me, how much is a snowflake in weight?" asked a sparrow. "Not much more than nothing," the pigeon responded. "Well", the sparrow says, "The other day, I was sitting on a branch of a pine tree when it started to snow. It was light snow. Nothing like in a storm. While just sitting there, I started to count those snowflakes that fell on my branch. I was up to 3,741,952. But then the next snowflake fell on the branch -- weighing not much more than nothing -- and the entire branch broke." The pigeon thought a while about this story and said to itself: Maybe there is only one voice missing to change this world.

Happy voting countrymen!