Monday, August 2, 2021
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Citizens’ apathy towards elections

So, after hectic campaigns and attacks by every political party, as always we see in any election campaign in our country, the “mini-assembly elections” of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation concluded peacefully. The BMC is the richest Municipal body in Asia and its revenue and budget is much more than the some of the smaller or even a big state in India. Though the percentage of voters who had cast their votes was higher than the previous years, at 55 per cent, I still feel this could have been bettered had people from upper strata of society had come out and cast their franchise. As per reports, the voting percentage was low in the areas of Malabar Hill, Bhuleshwar, Girgaum etc. Considering all round corruption in awarding tenders and contracts for roads and infrastructure provisions, bad services in respect of roads, drainage,  garbage removal and maintenance of environment, grabbing or land, cutting of trees for concrete constructions and several issues Mumbaikars, this time, should have been more active and exercised their vote in large numbers, to make the corporators accountable.

I therefore have a suggestion or an idea. Why not link budget allocation to the percentage of votes polled? This will ensure if an area votes 20%, they will get 20% and cannot crib later. For eg. Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Malabar Hill citizens seldom vote but get the best facilities as they are mostly influential and are known-to-be celebrities.  But Dahisar, Jogeshwari or Vidyavihar get least priority as the population is poor. Motto should be – no vote, no money. If this is not practical, link it to supply of water, electricity, provision of infrastructure and so on.

I also feel voter apathy is existent because they have no connect with their corporators MLA or MP and feel that their votes will have no effect on things – it would anyway continue to remain the same. If the elected representatives can have better connect with the people, some amount of the voter apathy could be reduced.

Now, most importantly we come to the other side pertaining to “large scale missing names in the voters’ list” in many areas which is unjustified. And we need to make the Election Commission responsible for the vanishing of eligible voters’ names from the list, that too all of a sudden this year? This year, the number of voters who could not exercise their franchise was abnormally high. As per reports, said to be in the range 13-15 per cent.

In Chembur for instance, the names of all the eligible voters of a 12 storey building had vanished from the voters’ list and none of them could vote. In areas like Mankhurd, Borivali, though many had cast their votes till the last assembly elections, found their names missing, this time.

With technology and electronic update and data being maintained, how can the names existing for decades vanish in one go? What sort of data and update is being maintained by the Election Commission offices? Shouldn’t there be a fool-proof system to ensure registration and permanent record of all the eligible voters at all times?

I have one more valid question. Of what use are these Voter ID card, Aadhar card, PAN card, ration card, Passport, domicile certificate etc. which prove my existence and as a bonafide resident and citizen? With all these important and statutory documents, how can I be refused or driven out from exercising my franchise – just because the EC had not kept proper data and have ‘deleted my name’ from the list. Can’t the election commission allow at least those with valid voter IDs to vote, whether or not his/her name features on the voter list? I think, in this area, we need an amendment or even a law which will allow a voter to cast his vote if he has valid documents and despite his name not reflecting in the voter list. Will any political party come forward to report this matter to the Election Commission? If need be let this matter be discussed in Parliament for necessary legislation to ensure voting rights to all the eligible citizens of India.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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