It’s been five years since the government came to power. I was 14, five hundred rupee notes were green and nobody cared what ‘anti-national’ meant. It’s been five years, I’m 19, Jio has become a lifeline, using Patanjali products has become a Neo-Swadesi Movement and we’re still fighting over “mandir kahan banega” (where will the mandir be constructed). The former reductionist sentence has been solely made to emphasize how long ago five years can feel.
It’s elections again and we get to decide who will decide our future for the next five years. The intimidating question however, is who should we vote for? I was just watching one of the prime time debates and my parents randomly popped a question, “you’re voting for the first time. What are you basing your vote on?” to which I didn’t have a definite answer. I mean, sure, the debates and the political op-eds make you aware and educated, but there’s more to choosing your preference of candidate than that.
My parents sat me down and recounted the stories of their first time votes and their considerations ever since. The answer to that question may not be available in this article but the article aims provide a list of things that I finally decided upon to assess while casting my vote.
I remember the first time I voted in the University elections, I was completely disillusioned by college politics but was really excited to push the buttons. Fortunately, my college education has helped me realize there is more to voting than just the satisfaction one gets after pushing a button (Also, you don’t necessarily need a college education to understand that). In a country with 1652 mother tongues, the only language our politicians understand is that of votes.
It is the time when advertisements on the television, posters on bus stops, fan boys wearing rubber masks of their hero, phone calls from unidentified contacts will all plead, request and will demand your votes. Standing in a long line in the heat of summer to cast a vote and help a party win the elections might not sound like an ideal vacation plan but interestingly people throughout history have fought for this experience.
In case I’ve convinced you into voting, the next step lies in identifying what you support. The broad ideologies to which the parties adhere to is (should be) clear to any politically aware citizen of India. The overarching ideology followed by a party is reflective in its workings at the local level which affects the people. For example, the right wing, nationalistic discourse followed by BJP and its manifestations like the Bajrang Dal at the local level.
One of the easiest ways of choosing which government would be less worse ( the view is personal and can be contested) is to assess the progress made by the current government with the oppositions work. However, the most important aspect of this method is to breakdown the term ‘progress’ and what one understands by progress. Ideally, it should entail steps taken in the economic, social, environmental and cultural domain.
The right to vote is a power enjoyed by all but in a country deeply divided on the lines of religion, caste and class, everyone does not enjoy the same privilege. The political scenario often unravels its hostility to the minority sections. While as a candidate we have full right to choose the leaders whose policies and agenda would best suit our interests, we must keep in mind their approach towards the marginalized and not just the mainstream.
Whenever I talk about the long journey back home that I will have to take, if I wanted to exercise my power to vote, there is that one person who will constantly ask me if one vote matters. I can never answer that reasonably considering my weak argumentative skills at one on one debating and my own doubts about the worth of my single vote. The only answer I have to why I will vote in 2019 is because I want to. I want to because I’ve witnessed protests, I’ve seen people suffer and I’ve watched them fight back. Just thinking about the prospect of being a part of decision making makes me feel empowered, and no my vote won’t be “just a single vote,” it will be my answer to the five year long relationship I’ve shared with this government.