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Archive for the ‘First vote, India Elections 2009’ Category

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Today was an important day for me. It was the first time I ever voted – for general elections. No, I haven’t just turned 18 (I wish!). I only woke up just now. I was really so excited! I was determined to vote. Plus most organizations gave their employees a day off to vote, so why shouldn’t we then? After much hunting in the hot sun, we finally reached my polling station. I was a little nervous initially- not knowing if I was going to get everything right. I watched as one of the booth officers painted people’s fingers with the ‘purple stain’. And when I was told it was my turn, I bumbled into the booth and looked bewildered at the number of options before me. Trust me, for a first timer, it can get confusing. My husband, sensing my apprehension, called out, “Just hit the button of your candidate and come out”. I did just that and then felt on top of the moon! I bounced out happily, singing and jumping, much to the amusement of hubby.

And to think that all these years I played the skeptic. ‘Why should I vote?’ is what I always asked myself. With every candidate more insincere and mediocre than the other, it seemed like a waste of my time, hopes and energy. I believe that’s what most people still think in my state of Maharastra- the voter turn out was just about 40%. That’s how disillusioned India is today with her leaders.

With so many candidates with criminal backgrounds (thank god the election commission banned convicts from contesting this time) and the electoral process so tedious (I couldn’t find my name or polling station in the voter’s list- and when I finally did, it showed up in at least 2 different lists), it’s no wonder that so few people actually chose to vote. Some people just left the polling stations when the system took very long to locate their voting centers.

As for those who did vote, many conveniently went for the ‘favorites’. They didn’t want to be a part of the ‘losing team’- so what if they seemed more able. I agree that a multiple party system is inherently flawed. With almost 20 parties contesting from a single constituency, all we can expect is a hung result, with voters more divided than united on anything. But then again, I wanted to vote this time. And I wanted to vote for the candidate who seemed most intelligent, capable and clean. It didn’t have to be someone from my ‘community’ or someone who has a record of wins. I voted because I was told my vote counts. And I believe it does. I don’t think the candidate I chose will win. But a loss with a narrower margin will encourage people like him to stand for elections again. That’s what we want, don’t we? Able candidates? Change?

Change isn’t going to come in a week. It took almost 8 years for it come to the White House! So I chose to be real. Unregulated democracy (like in India) can be a dangerous thing, I know. And we have been witness to these ‘dangers’ time and again. But we have a workable start. There are many places in the world under autocratic regimes. I am proud to be in a democracy, Alhamdulilah.

Even if you think NONE of the candidates are worth your precious vote, go in for the least of the devils. Because if voters consistently vote in this pattern, the politicians will at least make an attempt to be the ‘lesser devil’ when compared to their rivals. And their rivals will try to be a still ‘lesser devils’ and slow as this whole process may be, it might just bring about some positive change. The shrewd lot that our politicians are, they can’t ignore voter preferences endlessly. It will cost them their coveted power seats. For now, that’s the carrot we should dangle before them.

Sounds idealistic? Yes, it is. But we have to make a start, really. I am dissappointed at how few people chose to excercise this wonderful right. I wish I had encouraged more people to register. All I can say now is that the State elections for Maharashtra will be around in a few month’s time. This time at least, please, please vote. Because we ARE responsible. Because a nation only gets the leaders it deserves.

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