Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jaagore… Aur Phir Kya???

(Original Source:

When the Election Commission mandated that the indelible ink in Maharashtra was to be put in the middle finger instead of the forefinger, it did not quite realize the irony of the situation. The Mumbaikars also responded by showing their middle fingers –no better symbol to demonstrate what you always felt!!!

Circa Oct 30th 2009 – the day of the elections in Mumbai ; after all the hype created by the Jaago re campaign, the exhortations by the media and celebrities; it turned out to be quite a damp squib, even worse than the Knight Riders cacophony. The final city turnout was a pathetic 41% -the majority showed their middle finger to the Great Indian Election. The way the English press was gung ho about the entire event, you realize how much out of touch they are with the mood of the millions of people who felt – Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

There were other reasons too for the low turnout here – the simmering heat, the long weekend (4 days from Thursday to Sunday) and the standard problem of missing names in electoral rolls. But whether you choose to call it voter apathy, voter fatigue or indifference, you cannot ignore the role it plays in an electoral poll. In the initial enthusiasm, you vote for a party and if you are dissatisfied, you give another party a chance and then the ring-a-ring-a-roses goes on and on till you give up on this Divine Thought of making a difference.

When you try to sell a product and do a marketing overkill, sometimes it falls flat and makes it more repulsive. Let me be honest – I did feel a bit cheesed off at being told to Shut Up and Vote and being repeatedly told by the media and country loving celebrities that I need to contribute and make a difference. See, SRK came all the way down from South Africa just to cast a vote – I wish he’d fund my trip to Hyderabad; I’d love to visit my parents and make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a strong votary of the right to universal adult franchise – after all, that’s the only thing I can do which can, at least theoretically, make a difference to the polity running this place. We all agree that as a functioning democracy, the Right to Vote is a fundamental right that has been bestowed on us by the governing fathers of this nation and the Election Commission, under T N Seshan and his successors, has actually done its best to ensure that the polls are as free as they can be.

In the late 70s, buoyed by the call for Sampurna Kranti Aandolan by Jayaprakash Narayan against the regime of Indira Gandhi, people voted, rather revolted, in large numbers and overthrew the perpetrators of the Emergency. But what did they get –a ragtag group of Janata Party jokers, who made such a fool of themselves that it took just 3 years for Mrs. Gandhi to come back to power with a thumping majority. What we witnessed was truly the victory of adult franchise, when the voters brought back the same leader whom they had deposed a few years back.

When Rajiv Gandhi swept into power with a brutal majority, thanks to the tidal wave of sympathy after Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination, a lot was expected from the man – a Clean Leader they said, who would make a difference. He started with all the right notes before running out of steam; the smile faded, the hair deserted him and everything else that had endeared him to the masses disappeared– a mandate given on a platter and thrown away in a span of about 2 years.

Over the years, there were many others who have come and the BJP was supposedly The Alternative and when you heard them on TV, you felt that there had the energy to make a difference and sure, they did. They managed to make themselves another caricature (mukhauta) of the Congress and so we are now stuck between 2 rudderless entities. With an octogenarian leader and a rather weak second rung, the party looks lost in this electoral sea and is solely banking on Modi’s charisma to win the Centre.

The Third Front was always a joke – a group of individuals with their own private agendas and no illusions about making a difference. The Commies never got out of their comfort zones of Bengal, Kerala and Tripura (someone tell them that Mao and Che are no longer with us) while the regional parties stuck to their regional tantrums. Thanks to years of Congress misrule, they were wiped out of India’s largest Electoral College state – UP- only to be replaced with leaders like Mulayam and Maya.

The Right to Choice was given to us and it still exists but where are the bloody choices? I am thankful that I have the right to vote and protest about it but that’s the most I can, is it? So, I am told join the polity and make the difference that you want to see but then everyone cannot get into such a role, can he? I am thoroughly disillusioned and at 28, I wonder whether my vote can make a difference but I am stuck with my choices – after all, when I whine, I am told – Shut Up and Vote.

All said and done, I am glad that we have organizations like the Janaagraha, which are making the right noises and trying to bring about a change in the electoral system (among several other things). The change may just be too small but possibly (and I am trying to be an optimist), it could give something to rally around, during these trying times. After all, it’s so much easy to be a cynic and lambast everything around but so much more difficult to MAKE A DIFFERENCE…

P.S. Despite all exhortations, my family did not vote. I had relocated to Mumbai for my job and my registration was in Hyderabad, so no vote for me. My parents, despite living in Hyderabad for 30+ years and the same house for more than 15 years and voting in every election so far, realized that their names had suddenly disappeared from the voting lists. All for the Right to Make a Difference, which does not even exist!!!

1 comment:

  1. good article Pradeep.The Post Script is true for many invisible voters.The election commission should have a seperate category for the valid voter whose name disappears mysteriously during elections and gets counted later.