Rich residents of Gurgaon too busy to vote?

May 4th, 2009 - 2:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Ritu Sharma
Gurgaon, May 4 (IANS) They are affluent, educated, well travelled and vocal about their rights. They want the best equipped gyms and swimming pools in their high-end condominiums. But many residents of this ‘millennium city’ won’t be voting this Thursday.

Notwithstanding awareness campaigns, voting in urban Gurgaon is likely to be low with many staying away from the polling booth - some because it is a conscious decision not to, others because they don’t have voter identity cards as they have moved recently or just haven’t bothered to find out how to get it.

Gurgaon in Haryana is presented as the shining India, a symbol of urban success promising a better life for everyone behind the gateway of development. But away from the oasis of glittering malls and privately-developed housing complexes, basic infrastructure like power, water, roads and sanitation are lacking.

The affluent denizens of the gated townships of the city voice their grievances but have their own excuses for not casting their votes in the Lok Sabha elections on May 7.

“I will not be here,” said Sudhir Guha, a resident of a posh apartment who has not got himself registered with the Election Commission.

“I did not have the time. I have been back in India from only for a year. And since then I have been shuttling between India and abroad.”

But he is quick to complain about the infrastructure in Gurgaon: “Gurgaon is in a mess. There are no roads. There is hardly any electricity and the general administration is in a mess.”

Gurgaon, the skyscraper city, is an upcoming IT hub adjacent to the national capital Delhi. IT and related services exports from Gurgaon had touched the Rs.180 billion ($4.3 billion) mark in 2007-08. However, in terms of supporting infrastructure there has been no progress.

Last year rains deluged the shining city and the administration and the residents woke up to the fact that there was no municipal corporation that has since been created by the Haryana government.

“Inter-city communication is non-existent. Hardly any infrastructure other than buildings. There are no roads, no drains, no pedestrians. Now you have got metro which is going to take you across but nobody has thought about the roads. Where are the people going to walk,” Asoka Raina, a former journalist, told IANS.

“There are only five traffic constables for (new) Gurgaon. It is not the administration which is at fault. Nobody has demanded it.”

Raina has got himself registered and will be voting this time.

Not so banker Arun Chopra and his wife Tishita Chopra, who tried to get themselves registered but couldn’t.

“Both of us applied for it (the voter registration). We went through ‘Jaago Re’ (an online registration site). We had sent all the papers to the Election Commission office in Gurgaon but the courier returned,” the Chopras said.

The apathy of the affluent towards the democratic process and the low percentage of the registered voters in the apartments have led political parties to woo the rural voters. The problem is compounded as most of the residents have come from outside.

“I moved to Gurgaon a year and a half ago and am yet to figure out exactly where to buy vegetables. I am a working woman who reaches home late evening and have two children,” said a journalist who did not want to be identified.

The figures tell the story. According to official records, only 6,947 voters have been added under the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency after a summary revision in the last five years. This is far less than the total number of people who move into the city each month. At present, the total number of voters registered with urbanised Gurgaon is 166,000, out of 1,230,949 voters in the constituency.

“The turnout of voters in the urban areas remains 15-40 percent whereas in rural areas it is above 70 percent,” an official of the election commission office in Gurgaon told IANS.

“The percentage of voters in posh societies is very low as the people in the societies are very indifferent and most of them do not even have voter Id cards,” Tilak Raj Malhotra, in charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign in the Gurgaon assembly segment, told IANS.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

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