I feel like killing myself for not writing this piece before 16 April (i.e. before the day elections started). I remember that I decided that I would run a campaign of sorts on all my blogs so as to create whatever awareness I could at my small level and encourage my fellow citizens to go out and cast their vote in the 2009 general elections. But I don’t know how I became so lazy that I could not find time to write this all important topic. And here I am, writing this post when two out of five phases of the elections have already passed and fates of candidates for more than half of the 543 Lok Sabha seats have already been sealed in the ballot boxes. But better late than never. (*promises to self to be more responsible in future*)
So India, the largest democracy in the world is currently voting to choose the representatives to 15th Lok Sabha to lead us, “hopefully”, for the next five years. This is the biggest democratic event mankind has ever witnessed as more than 700 million (714,103070 to be exact) people lined up to cast their vote. Never before in history, man witnessed participation at this large scale.
What do these elections means for India?
India has been shining, and shining bright for the last decade or two. Our economy has been on steroids, clocking 6-8 pc GDP growth consistently for a few years now, our scientific achievements (Chandrayaan) have been a fairy tale, our military might (now don’t compare with US or China et al, peace) and what not. But I am sure most of us would agree with me here that if only we had good leaders who can think of nation above self, power, money and everything else, we would have been miles ahead of where we are now. Because we know that there is not any lack of brilliant and hard working brains here.
Indian politics is dirty. Period. But makes the politics dirty? Politicians. And who elects the politicians? We, the people. This is where I feel these elections can be different from all the previous ones. Of the 700 million people who will exercise their right to vote this year, a staggering 65% of them are below the age of 35. This the highest India has got so far in terms of young electors. Youth thinks differently, there is no one doubting that. They they don’t think orthodox, “most” can think above the lines of region, religion, caste, color and other such crap, or so I believe (I hope I am not wrong). Not that I am saying our parents grand parents are all fools and incapable of making wise decisions but when talking of majority and witnessing the politics we have in our country today, I am somewhat inclined to think that the youth can do a better job than those who previously elected leaders giving preference to religion, caste, region etc of the candidate.
That means more than 450 million young and ignited minds deciding the fate of the country for the next five years, now that’s unprecedented and revolutionary. All the major political parties realize the power of young voters in these elections. And that is why every one is trying to woo the young voter in as many ways as they can. Like BJP’s huge campaign online which has for sure ruined my (and probably your too) online experience since months. BJP’s ads can be seen many websites, I don’t know how much money they spent on online advertising. BJP and Congress has been actively engaging young voters on hugely popular sites like Facebook and Twitter. Special campaigns have been designed for targeting the youth. Every one knows that youth holds the key in these elections. Do you?
Why should you vote?
This question is a no brainer actually. You are a citizen of this country and that is enough reason for you to vote. It is your country, if you do not care for it, no one else will. Your non-vote can even lead to election of a non-competent leader or someone whom you don’t want. Why let that happen? If you crave for the rights the democracy of this country has given you, you are expected to fulfill your duties towards it as well, that is cast your vote. If you think that one vote doesn’t make any difference, then remember the old saying, the droplets fill an ocean. If everyone were thinking like you, there would be no elections at all. If you start at your level, others will follow. At least you can be proud that you do something at your end and not like many many other who can only sit and whine about the endless this country faces while making no contribution or efforts in trying to get rid of the problems.
If you are young and you are think of what can be achieved if these (or most) 450 million vote. You are one of these 450 million. Would not you want to participate and cast your vote and make a statement?
Also I would like to quote here two great personalities:
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
Whom should you vote?
Now this is a tricky question. No matter what age group you belong to or what are your values you just can’t think of genuine politicians who are worthy of your vote. Though in the end decision is your to make but the problem lies in the fact that it is not easy to make even that decision because there are just no politicians whom you can vote on their merits. Indian elections have always been about choosing between the lesser of the two evils. Both the national parties, “Indian national Congress (INC)” and “Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP)”, have their “cons”. Its really tough to choose between the two, not because the both have done exceptional work but because you have to actually look through the profiles to see which part has the candidates which have lesser criminal records against their names, which has criminals politicians who are not involved in any scam or forgery or any other mis-conduct. You don’t have the luxury of choosing that who amongst them has more nation loving,honest, strong leaders. This is the common dilemma shared by most of the voters, specially first timers in India.
Now that is what dis-heartens me. Can’t we find 543 worthy leaders for ourselves in a nation of 1 billion people? It actually discourages you to rather not vote as no good is going to come of it anyway. But this attitude is wrong. Still you have to choose, even if it means choosing between the two evils, because if you don’t, who knows, the greater of the evils is voted to power, and we don’t want that. Also, after elections if the greater evil is in power and it commits a blunder, you can’t blame anybody because did you do anything to keep them from power? No. So do vote, wisely.
But still if your self does not allow you to vote for any of the evils, because no matter even if you choose someone who is the lesser evil in your opinion, they will still bring you shame. They will still do acts which will make you think, “How could have I elected these people to power?” I was in a similar dilemma last year during Delhi legislative elections last year, when I could not think of who should get my vote? I could not decide on any party. Both had numerous negatives. Then finally, I voted for “no-one” using a special provision provided to us voters, under 49-O. It basically enables you to cast a “null vote” i.e. your vote is valid, but not in favor of any party or candidate. Mind that it is not a “negative vote”, meaning your vote will not affect the outcome of the elections if even 1 normal vote is cast. Though I am not sure what will happen if every elector decides to vote using 49-O. Here is what is written on NIC website about 49-O.
49-O. Elector deciding not to vote.-If an elector, after his
electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters
in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as
required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his
vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in
Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb
impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.
Read the full “THE CONDUCT OF ELECTIONS RULES, 1961? here on the NIC website.
This method is not very easy to use as there will be many obstacles in your way. Even the elections officer on duty are not aware of this provision. When I went to vote, they almost turned me down saying there is nothing like this. But I came to know later that there were others who also tried to cast their vote in this manner but were actually scolded and turned down by the authorities present on election duties at the polling station. So if you decide to vote using 49-O, go prepared with all the proofs.
Take print out of the text above (in quotes) and also the print out of (scroll to point #11 on page 8 ) this PDF from Election Commission Of India’s (ECI) ECI_voters_guideline_2006. These two should be enough. This thing sure exists, I have myself used it. Authorities on paper there might not know it, its your job to convince them. (Don;t attempt any heroic or sensational act at the polling station, just be polite, I am sure the officers will reciprocate).
Please note that unlike the spam mail that is under circulation for years now, there is no clause suggesting cancellation or re-polling under any circumstances due to 49-O. Your vote will have NO effect on the outcome of the elections. Though I agree that whether you are actually contributing by voting using 49-O or not is debatable, but I tend to believe that it is a contribution in someway atleast. If you think same, you can also vote using 49-O if you can’t decide on any party or candidate.
There you go, the bottom line is you HAVE TO vote if you are a responsible citizen of this country. Even if you think no one is worthy, you have to elect because otherwise the greater of the two evils can come to power. Still if you think voting is useless, vote using 49-O, I have given you another option. If you still don’t vote, DIE!