Go vote, say campaigns, but are people listening?

April 10th, 2009 - 11:47 am ICT by IANS  

Aamir Khan By Maitreyee Boruah
Bangalore, April 10 (IANS) This election perhaps stands apart for the number of campaigns urging millions of reluctant, often lazy, Indians to walk that extra mile to the polling booth. But many voters say they are not impressed.

“Where are the right leaders to vote for?” retorts Radhika Sharma, a 22-year-old college student in Bangalore. “Most seasoned politicians fail to impress us as they are only good at rhetoric and not interested in public service,” she told IANS.

“Most politicians are interested in filling their own coffers. Only during elections do they come out and fold their hands to seek votes,” she insisted.

Housewife Meenakshi Rani said: “I am not going to vote. First give us the right leaders - who have a record of bringing positive change in society - to choose from.”

Voting will take place in five phases beginning April 16. Counting is on May 16. From the Election Commission and the media to NGOs, they are all on an overdrive to nudge millions of people to vote.

The election authorities in many states have tried to simplify the procedure for registering one’s name in the electoral list and getting voter identification cards.

In Karnataka, for instance, the state election authorities opened 50 Voter Facilitation Centres (VFCs) across the state that worked through the week except Mondays for nearly a month.

Tata Tea, a Tata group company, launched the ‘Jaago Re (Wake up)! One Billion Votes’ campaign, six months back to encourage youth voters.

Janaagraha, a Bangalore-based NGO, has joined hands with it to organise rock concerts by a Bangalore rock group, Thermal and A Quarter. The band toured the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with its ‘Shut Up and Vote’ concert. It rounded off the campaign in Bangalore.

But many remain sceptical.

“These are mere publicity stunts, full of glitz and glamour. The real issues are not going to be solved by the song and dance about urging people to vote,” asserts IT professional Subhas Panth, 27.

Some say politicians simply don’t have their finger on the pulse of the people.

“Even during elections, politicians don’t talk of issues like lack of civic amenities, corruption, terrorism and a high rate of unemployment. All the parties are busy in mudslinging,” rues Sanjay Gowda, an entrepreneur.

Such reactions are a pointer to the huge task that civil society faces in impressing upon certain sections the need to overcome their reservations and participate in the electoral process to bring about the change they seek.

In Hyderabad, hundreds have joined the LetsVote walk. Mumbai and Delhi had MumbaiVotes, DelhiVotes respectively and the IT capital saw the smartvote.in campaign on the net.

Actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan has also done his bit. He is featuring in a campaign with the slogan “Sache ko chune, Achche ko chune” (Vote for integrity, Vote for good people) on television and in print.

In contrast, political parties have not launched any campaign on their own on the issue. Most have, however, set up or revamped their websites to reach out to the people through the net.

Previous voting figures show why such campaigns are needed. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, only 58.07 percent of the electorate voted. This time the size of the electorate is 714 million.

Thus, organisations like Janaagraha are pressing on.

“The nation is facing several problems, with terrorism and economic meltdown being the prime ones. This is the best time for voters to vote and choose the right leaders to run the country. Staying away from elections will not solve problems,” Vandana Krishnan of Janaagraha told IANS.

“It is not only important to vote but informed voting is equally important.”

(Maitreyee Boruah can be contacted at m.boruah@ians.in)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |