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Elections 2009: Voting Day

April 30th, 2009 · 21 Comments

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!

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21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Shane // Apr 30, 2009 at 9:30 am

    I totally connect with what you are saying, however I do have one thing to say, I may be one of the few who believe one vote can make a difference, I pushed myself and my entire family to go through the “cumbersome voter registration process” , we checked to ensure our names were on the list online and we were all there, come the day of the election only one member of my family is in the list. The question I have now is who do I hold responsible? We stuck to the process, did everything a responsible citizen should, ….we have the receipts to state that we filed our names…but there is no one accountable for our names missing. There is no NGO, Citizens Group or Govt Body that will pursue this matter, I am not the only one who has faced this problem and im sure that there will be others joinin me after the Mumbai polls

  • 2 Rajesh // Apr 30, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Sad Rajesh. Agreed that there’s a lot that need to change when it comes to voter registration and voting mobility. But I must nudge you; wasn’t that a classic example of Upper Middle Class apathy to even check if they are on proper electoral rolls after delimitation?!

  • 3 Akshar // Apr 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

    You were deprived of your basic right because some data entry operator (or whoever) somewhere goofed up (incompetence).

    60 years have passed by we blowing the horn of India being the largest democracy (here size and not quality; matters) but the bottom line is that we cant even prepare voter lists with efficiency.

    Mumbai might be a chaotic city but similar things happen in Goa as well an average booth has mere 400- 800 voters. :|

    [
    I was lucky to have my name as well as photo on the voters list without actually submitting a photo, while my parents who went through a process of getting the photo on list, it was missing on the list.

    Felt great to caste vote for the first time in General Elections. ]

  • 4 electionwala // Apr 30, 2009 at 10:59 am

    hi rajesh,
    do you think your missing name has anything to do with your open support to BJP?
    just wondering!

  • 5 Elections 2009: Voting Day | b001.info // Apr 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

    [...] 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 … See the original post here: Elections 2009: Voting Day [...]

  • 6 Vishal // Apr 30, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Rajesh, BJP is deprived of one vote mate :) .
    I dont think yr support to BJP has to do anything with it.
    What was the solution proposed by Electoral officer, dont tell me he said next time .

  • 7 Sunil // Apr 30, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Hey ppl the constituency no 142 didn’t hv an option of no vote which seems to be ridiculios.

  • 8 Hemant // Apr 30, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    Mr. Jain Sorry to hear that but its normal, I recall posting it earlier on your blog that I bunked office got all my family members stand in the Q to get the voter ID and despite of explaining and spelling our names 10 times we got all wrong on the V cards. When it came to my turn the current went off and there was no genset back up either (lol) I was told that Pic is taken but it can’t be printed till current comes so collect it later, God knows when that later will come. I kept going back to those ppl (talking about last election in Karnataka – RS elections) but I couldn’t get the voter card. This time when I went to vote I took my PAN card with me, luckily my name (misspelled obviously) and Photo was there so was able to cast my vote.
    Solution – I was wondering if this voter ID card can be taken to next level, have an electronic voter ID card system and the course of voting should also be changed – have one room (just like how we’ve ATMs today) hosting the machine and the glass door should stay closed with a camera inside the room and an electro-magnetic lock outside. Flash your voter ID card and the gate should open (do aways with Inks) go in cast your vote and come out, obviously your face will be captured in the camera and a card once flashed cannot be flashed again (so if you fail to enter the room, you should not be allowed to vote again) and the guard outsid will make sure that only one person goes in at one time (I’ve seen a family of 4 jumping all together to the voter machine and punching it :) …).
    Also, link all the systems online – like how we apply today for PAN cards. If one already has a PAN card link it up with voter ID as well to avoid confusions/mistakes….
    For un-educated people have centers like ‘Bangalore one’ (talking about B’lore in particular, not sure what others have in their areas) should make V cards and it should be done throughout the year and not only at the time of elections when you set up V card booths to cater to millions of people in a day.

  • 9 Global Voices Online » India: Not On The Voter List // Apr 30, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    [...] many I know who won’t be able to vote because their name is not on the electoral rolls”, wrote Rajesh Jain in his blog. Later during the day when the blogger went to vote in South Mumbai, he [...]

  • 10 India: Not On The Voter List « NhanLife // May 1, 2009 at 12:05 am

    [...] many I know who won’t be able to vote because their name is not on the electoral rolls”, wrote Rajesh Jain in his blog. Later during the day when the blogger went to vote in South Mumbai, he [...]

  • 11 Ram // May 1, 2009 at 12:15 am

    Rajesh, i had the same experience but checked the website of the electoral office few days before and found the exact booth. Check my post for a potential solution.. http://rampost.blogspot.com/2009/04/voting-experiences-indian-elections.html

    Regards,
    Ram

  • 12 Ruchit // May 1, 2009 at 12:50 am

    I did not get to vote but for entirely different reason http://blog.siliconverse.com/?p=484 what do you have to say about this Rajesh?

  • 13 Vijay Rana // May 2, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Voter lists are a sort of scandal in India. Remember the days when whole communities were ommitted at the behest of the ruling party in several parts of UP and Bihar.

    But it should not go on in the 21st century, the age of internet.

    Voter lists should be available permanently on the internet. It is not a big deal.

    Take the example of the UK. Every year in the month of Sept. every household is sent a letter showing the name and age of the voters in that household. It is the legal responsibility of the head of the household to varify the names of voters residing in that house .

    If there is any change, for example this year after her marrage my daughter has moved to her flat with her husband. So it is my duty to report that she has moved to a new address.

    This letter has to be returned to the local council by the last day of the October. If you don’t, you might be fined.

    So voter lists are revised every year. And anyone can check their name at anytime in the voter register available with the local council.

  • 14 Rajeev Gowda // May 2, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Stumbled across your election-day experience, and thought I should share a blog post of mine with a similar theme. My views echo your emphasis on the importance of political participation. Check out:
    http://hamaracongress.com/2009/05/01/notes-from-the-campaign-trail-2/

    While we share similar views about active political engagement, our political affiliations are at opposite end of the spectrum!

    Here’s to healthy competition!

  • 15 Why Have Voter Registration Campaigns Not Increased Voter Turnout in the 2009 Indian Lok Sabha Elections? | Gauravonomics Blog // May 3, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    [...] officials and shoddy poll arrangements. Model-turned-writer Shobha De had an easier time voting. Rajesh Jain explains how he ended up not voting for the first time since 1992, because of his name missing from [...]

  • 16 Global Voices Online » Indian Elections 2009: Lower Voter Turnouts And Questions Regarding Campaigns // May 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    [...] officials and shoddy poll arrangements. Model-turned-writer Shobha De had an easier time voting. Rajesh Jain explains how he ended up not voting for the first time since 1992, because of his name missing from [...]

  • 17 Django // May 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Why don’t we have just one unique number like the SSN in the US ?? I’m sure our Indian techies (read IIT’s/IIM’s, premier institutes) developed their efficient systems :-) and we can’t do it in our own country.

    YEs the general apathy of the middle class which can actually make a huge difference, just lost in stage 1, including me :-) . We all crib but no one stands up for it.

    We should have asked the local electoral officers to send us a semi-final check list for errors and ommissions before the final list was prepd.

    I’m of the opinion that begining the next elections, PMP’s (Project managers) should handle the whole process of various departments of this country and help the system to become more efficient.

    It may be a humongous process, be we can atleast begin.

  • 18 udaya // May 4, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Rajesh,

    It seems the Lord does have a sense of humor. Or he is speaking in signs….

    Oops, after all that hardwork, and encouraging everyone to go out and vote, well, something about being hoisted on one’s own petard. Hahaha…

    Dont worry, Manmohan did not vote in the last election and did become PM. Perhaps it is your time now to become Minister for Technology or something similar. Good Luck.

    For people who find fault with the system, well remember that this is a rather large endeavor, so problems do occur. For those who see a conspiracy, well the conspiracy seems well executed, for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost…

  • 19 Elections 2009: Low Voting from Middle India (Part 2) // May 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

    [...] Elections 2009: Voting Day [...]

  • 20 Aaron k // Dec 11, 2009 at 6:17 am

    I totally agree with your point! Very informative

    Warmest Regards

    Jenny M
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