Yes, I voted couple of days back, as on many other occasions. And I am proud to be one of the only 44% Bangaloreans who voted. Now, why did I vote? I voted because I strongly believe that I have no right to complain about the system if I do not participate in the process of voting. While this sounds cliched, an important incentive for me is that I also believe that unless enough consumer resistance comes up, the system is not going to improve. So I believe in voting, and complaining and in being happy occasionally when I see my demands fulfilled by the powers that be, even if it is something as small as getting the corporation to desilt the drains in our area or getting the roads swept. While the connection between all these might seem illogical to brighter minds, it is somehow connected in my mind.
Was I comfortable voting? No, I was not. I had all the usual excuses for not voting. I had to choose between parties who though different on paper, have very few members committed to their ideology. Members who move easily between parties, who profess to be ‘secular’ one day and are called ‘Hindu nationalists’ on another or vice versa. Parties, whose members, if the media is to be believed, had their personal wealth increasing between 600 to 1200 percent, at a rate higher than the sensex between elections. I had to, more particularly, choose between candidates whose declared assets were among the highest in the state and the means to these assets was not clear to us, the voters. I had to choose between parties none of whose professed ideology matched mine. But the process of voting itself, smooth and painless, just took half an hour of my time.
How did I choose? Now, that, as the Americans say, is a good question. Meaning difficult to answer. I have no committed political ideology. I narrowed my choice to two parties which had the most chances of forming a single party government. I studied the individual candidates. I checked out their declared assets on the website of the election commissioner. I read all the scraps of information published about them. I went to meetings they addressed and asked them questions. Of all these, faced with a Hobson’s choice, the face to face meeting was the one factor that helped me to most to decide. And so I voted. And whether the choice was good or not, I will tell you a year or two from now.
Am I proud? Yes, I am. I am proud I exercised my duty as a conscientious citizen. That I did not yield to the allure of apathy. I am proud to have contributed my mite to the democratic process of India, a process that we take so much for granted, a process that is appreciated in its loss rather than in its presence. That, for example, allows members of the communist parties in India to speak publicly in a way that I presume they never would be able to if they lived in a country that was ruled by communist ideology.
Attending an unrelated workshop on voting day, I noticed that most young people there did not have indelible ink marks on their index fingers. I was disappointed, at the apathy of young India and worried about their future. The next day I was ashamed to read in the newspapers that urban Bangalore had the lowest voter turn out. I do hope the real freedom that we have, freedom to speech, freedom to property, freedom of choice is not lost for the next generation through non involvement of citizens in the democratic process.
And hats off to the rural voters. I once participated in a campaign in a rural area for a friend, and I can say with certainty that rural voters participated in the election process in an informed and analytical way that I have rarely seen displayed by the bright young people of Bangalore ⊕