All set to vote this week? Seshasayee Gopi talks to youngsters in Chennai to know how serious they are about choosing their leader.
The doorbell derailed a remarkable train of dreams and a well-deserved Saturday-afternoon siesta came to an abrupt end. I staggered my way to the door and yanked it open to find a short, portly man standing on my door-step.
He flashed a smile and said “Sir, voter name-list checking, sir”. After running his pen up and down a set of dot-matrix print-outs, “Sir, P.S. Sampath sir is there?” he asked.
I replied, “He is my grandfather sir, he passed away five years ago.”
“Oh, okay”, he said, “Mohana Sampath, sir?”
“Grandmother, sir, very old, She will not vote anyway, MGR is not contesting ...” I said.
Then came my father’s name, my mother’s name and, as I held on to the handle expectantly, he flashed his smile again, took a step backward and said, “That’s all, sir”.
“My name, sir? Seshasayee. Is it not there, sir?” I asked, peering into his list of the neighbourhood’s voters.
He ran his frown up and down the list again. “Not there, sir. Maybe in second list. I will check and come back, sir” he said. So after all those hours spent at the street-corner on political debates, my dance in this democracy could be a no-show this time, in all probability.
Duty to vote
“My name wasn’t there on the voter’s list too! But I visited the local enrolment camp and got it included,” says Dhivya Diwakar (27), a software engineer, with a tinge of pride. “Though I do not follow politics and as usual will ask my grandpa for some gyan, I most certainly am going to vote. At least to make sure my vote is not misused!”
Some, like Dhivya, vote because they believe it is a discharge of duty, others vote because they believe it will make a difference.
“I have booked tickets to come back home to vote, like I always do,” says Shrinivas S.G. (25), a young leader at Bharti Airtel. “The feeling that you are making a difference to the next five years of this country's future with the press of a button is special.”
Ashwin Chandrasekar (28), C.E.O. at Buybazaar, puts voting in a rather interesting perspective.
“We pay 30 per cent of our income directly as tax. And then we pay service tax, sales tax, property tax, road tax, water tax, etc apart from several surcharges and cesses. Conservatively speaking, we pay about 50-60 per cent of our earnings as tax! Which means 2.5 days out of the five days that I work is for the Government! I’d better vote!”
Viswajith Kumar (28), Ashwin’s partner in Buybazaar and Director at Navin Housing, quotes Plato: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. A democracy gives me an easy fix by allowing me to pick who governs my country and me. What more reason do I need to vote?”
Ramdas Kannan (24), a Business Analyst who is “of course” going to vote, says, “Democracy works if everyone believes in it and the least I can do is believe in it!”
Like always, the newly-eligible voters are eager to discover what it feels like to play a role in deciding the next occupant of 7, Race Course Road. Now, the Rs.6-crore question is: ‘Whom do I vote for?’ This has always been a tough question for the Mango Indian, who is known to nearly always fall for the promise of development and the rhetorical charms of our politicians.
“There should be a provision for re-election in case the promised benefits are not delivered, or at any point if people lose confidence in the elected government! Right now only the elected politicians can move ‘No-confidence motion’ against the government and so it is being used for political tug-of-wars,” says Megha K. Sridhar, a 23-year-old CA Final student, who is planning to cast her vote early on April 24 before the crowds start queuing up.
This time, several young voters are gung-ho about the None-Of-The-Above (NOTA) option. “I don’t believe in Indian politicians anymore but I still believe in democracy. So I am going to vote NOTA,” says Sharath Sridhar (23), IT professional.
It would be an extraordinary display of a non-violent civil uprising if NOTA polled maximum votes in a constituency. Though it wouldn’t alter the result, it would be the biggest boo yet for the smug Indian politician and it would underline the fact that in a democracy, no leader is ever greater than the led.
Long distance obstacles
My workplace is Tiruchi, but my voting booth is in Chennai. Though I get a day off for the elections, the travel and effort involved is way too much. Tickets have to be booked much earlier and work stress keeps my mind occupied.
So I end up choosing the easier option than the right option. However, if given an option to do it locally wherever I am, or through postal or online ballot, I would definitely vote. - Muhammad Hashim, working in Petroleum industry
I will be unable to vote this time, as I study at Pune, and I do not have a holiday on April 24 when elections are slated to take place in Chennai. This makes me feel incomplete as a citizen, and I wish the Election Commission comes up with a way to enable students like us to vote. - Athreya Mukunthan, M.Sc. Student at Symbiosis School of Economics, Pune
I am from Chennai but am now studying in Australia. I am desperate to vote and make a difference. Wish I had an option to vote online or even through post. Even with the advent of advanced technology, we still are expected to physically turn up at our polling station to cast our votes. I am sure there are thousands like me and all their votes will certainly make a difference! - Venkatesh, Management Student, Sydney