The city is home to many senior citizens who exercise their franchise regularly. More than a privilege or a right, they consider voting their duty. Many of them have interesting stories to recall, for they have not only witnessed changes in election procedures but also the way candidates are chosen by political parties.
M. Durairaj, 72, of Saidapet voted for the first time in 1962 in Thanjavur. He also served as an election officer in the 1960s. According to him in the 1950s, ballot boxes in green and yellow were used to distinguish candidates. “The voting procedure was not strict. I also had the option to vote in my hometown and it was convenient for me,” Mr. Durairaj recalled.
K.Ganapathy, 71, of Ambattur said, “The opportunity to cast vote was regarded highly. Parents had a great influence on youngsters unlike now.”
A self-proclaimed party loyalist, Manimaran, 75, a watchman of a residential flat in Adyar, says voting is the only thing he looks forward to in life. Having voted over 20 times, his failing health now prevents him from going overboard with excitement. “It is just the pull of one person, I want him to be the CM every time,” he says, while his wife, Lakshmi, 58, adds, “It is an obsession for him. I stopped voting long ago as it does not make any difference to our lives.”
While musician B. Seetharama Sarma feels not much changes since only a few people vote honestly, C. R. Sivaraman still stands by the promise of democracy, “People are getting more aware. What we need is proper regulation of election funds,” he says. R. Suryanarayanan says “People should vote for the candidate and definitely not for freebies. Not voting is not a solution. We need to vote for the better candidates.”
R. Sivakumar has never missed an election. “I never waste my vote. I go as early as 8 a.m. to make sure no body casts vote in my place. Poor voter turn out is the reason why governments are anti-people,” he adds, calling for awareness about the 49O option. The elderly voters feel youngsters take elections lightly. S. Pattabhiraman wants the youth to take charge. “With a huge proportion of the population below 35 years of age, the youth cannot be complacent,” he says. The middle class also needs to voice its concern, says G. Venkateswaran, who has been voting since 1961.
People from lower socioeconomic strata, struggle to make ends meet and are thankful for the freebies offered by political parties. But they believe voting is their right. Senior citizens Pushpa Joseph and N. Susheela of Sathyavani Muthu Nagar, Otteri, and vegetable vendor G. Nataraj of Thomas Road, T. Nagar, have been voting regularly because they feel it is their right though they struggle to meet ends. Ms. Joseph hopes the old age pension would be disbursed early in the month so she can settle her dues early. A retired IAS officer succinctly summed up the views of elderly voters. “We all love democracy. We just don't have much of it,” he says, adding “that people come out with candid remarks about parties proves that all's not lost yet.”