Vote Thoughts: Musings on Election Day

Posted: April 30, 2009 in Uncategorized
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A question posted by a Facebook friend on his status got me thinking. He asked “give me a good reason why I should go and vote tomorrow?”. With all the extensive mobilization and promotion of our duty to vote, that such questions still remained, made me wonder.

At the outset, I came up with this one answer to that question, “Voting gives you the right to crib for the next 5 years. If you don’t vote, you can’t crib.”

Having said that, why really, does the thought of not voting come up? I have been there, in previous elections. Sometimes because I was frustrated by the system. Sometimes because I was giving an excuse to myself (“cunning intelligence”) while actually, I wanted to take a holiday, or was too busy at work. Those times, I had also asked similar questions, “Why should I vote? What good does it do? Finally the government is decided by rural votes..” and thoughts of that kind.

Maybe the terror attacks, maybe some ‘wisdom’ (??) over the years, has ensured that I don’t ask that basic question, about voting.

But there is a feeling amongst the intellectual classes that their vote does not matter. That there are vote banks, and they vote en masse, on account of certain factors – be it caste, be it money, whatever..

My thoughts on this subject are:

1. Maybe vote banks ARE big. Maybe they ARE influenced. Maybe they ARE manipulated. Or MAYBE NOT?! Maybe the so-called vote banks have seen through the manipulation. Maybe they have realized that election-after-election, when they voted together, it did not really deliver them any kind of salvation to their woes. So MAYBE they take their own calls, and vote differently. Or at least SOME do. And we see a shift. Perhaps a small shift.

2. If OUR chosen candidate does not win, if say a Meera Sanyal does not win, and an apparently lesser mortal wins, then do we sense frustration? If we get say, a 3rd front or 4th front emerging ahead at the center, do we again feel cheated? Do we resign ourselves with the thought that “vote banks at work again”? Hey, ever considered the fact that what we want, may not be the popular vote after all??

3. Elections finally are about popular vote. We “intellectuals” (and I include myself here) think that we know what is good for the country, and if things do not happen our way, then things are really wrong. Well, going down high-speed elevators, driving our air-conditioned cars, and having cups of coffee at 5-star coffee shops, gives us a certain view of the country. The real India may be different. In their own limited intelligence, they may have a view of what is good for them. And maybe we just do not identify with it. Gandhiji reached his sphere of influence after traveling the country, by road, by train, by being with people, by empathizing with them completely. If he was a practising barrister in England or South Africa or even Bombay, and from that pedestal, if he had preached about what is good for the country, we might still have been a British colony!

So, let what happen, happen. Lets believe that we have a system which is largely clean, at least as far as the process goes. And lets accept the verdict that we get. As the real popular vote. If it happens to be what we also wanted to see, great. If not, tough luck.. !

Just for the record, I have had my share of depression about the system, even during the run-up to this election, as you can see from this earlier post!

  1. Joe S says:

    I agree with must participate in the electoral process. I think voting is the most precious of all rights one can have. When I could not votie, I would accompany my parents to the voting booth. As a parent, I take my son with me when we vote..or find other ways to involve him in the process.

    I can understand the cynicism. Have been there..will be there in the future. But without voting, you lose the right to complain or criticize.

    BTW, I heard voting in Mumbai in current round was at an all time low. I figured after the reaction to the November attacks, the turnout would actually be higher..just for people to register their voice ?? What gives? Has the outrage fizzled away?

    Talking about voting, I really think that US, India and others should look at ranked voting systems instead of the more simple voting systems we use today (and be more like parts of Europe). Those systems truly capture the majority will/intent of the voters after factoring in all choices (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc)


    • Sanjay Mehta says:

      I was equally surprised at the low turnout in Mumbai. After huge promotion on voting. Not sure of the reason. Turned out to be a long weekend with May 1 Friday and then the Sat-Sun. But that cannot be the only factor. Sad, really.. !
      The outrage of November has indeed fizzled away. Everybody’s back to routine. Again, that is a sad story.. people just do not have time to mourn / fight / whatever..
      The rated voting system seems like a good idea, for sure.

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