Even as Mumbai goes to the polls today as part of Phase 3 of the five-phased election process, I was thinking of why urban Indian doesn’t vote in larger numbers. (For the record, I have voted in every election in India since my return to India from the US in May 1992.)
There is a significant apathy that is there in urban India. It is a combination of the quality of candidates, the disenchantment with all political parties and a general distaste with all things political. There is a feeling that one’s vote will make absolutely no difference. This apathy is complemented by the cumbersome voter registration process. There are many I know who won’t be able to vote because their name is not on the electoral rolls.
Even while there needs to be a simplification of the voter registration process, we in urban India need to get past our apathy and start engaging with the political process. That is a small and necessary first step towards a multi-year effort reinventing India’s political process and governance. Participation, and not Abstention, is the Solution.
UPDATE at 9:45 am: I guess I spoke too early. My name was missing in the Voter list in South Mumbai. All other members from my family (father, mother, wife, sister) were listed – but not me. So, I couldn’t vote. I checked another adjacent booth, but no luck. I think what has happened is that my wife’s and my electoral records have gotten merged — her middle name and first name have gotten interchanged (so it reads as Rajesh Bhavna Jain), my age has become her age, and the gender is shown as female. Considering that both of us have voted in every previous election with our Voter ID cards, this was a shocker. One of the persons at the booth said I will have to go through the whole registration process again. So, this is a complete anti-climax and a big disappointment. Something seems wrong in this voter registration and list management process. Little did I expect that I would be among the non-voters today!