Elections 2009: Low Voting from Middle India

Mumbai’s low voting percentage (about 40%) is causing much discussion and heartburn. This was the election when Middle India (comprising urban youth and professionals) was supposed to vote in great strength. None of that has happened.  I will outline my assessment of the reasons – and the possible solutions.

  • Declaring Voting Day a Holiday: Talk of the law of unintended consequences. Apparently, some notification was issued stating that comapnies had to give a holiday so everyone could wait. This helped create a 4-day vacation in Mumbai. In fact, if people had to go to work that day, chances are they would have voted and then gone off to work. Polling booths open at 8 am (or in some cases 7 am). There is no reason to make voting day a holiday. All that employees need is the flexibility to either come late or leave early — nothing more than that.
  • Natural Apathy to Politics and Politicians: This is now quite deep-rooted in Middle India, and political parties have done little to change it.  In many consitutencies, the candidates aren’t good. Also, voters don’t see any political party as different. There was no ‘wave’ to get peopleout in force to vote.And there is also the belief that ‘my one vote will make no difference.’ These factors will take time to address. But if India’s democracy has to be strengthened, we need political parties to begin a ‘continuous engagement process’ with Middle India. Open meetings should be organised every 3 months or so wherein the local MP can be questioned. Interactive onloine forums need to set up whereby people can give their feedback. Candidate selection by political parties also needs to be re-thought. The process of political parties re-connecting with Middle India will take time but it needs to start now.

(To be continued tomorrow)