Every election season we get torn between two narratives. One is the majority and politically correct stand of exercising our voting power by hook and crook. The other is by the extreme leftists on how the current electoral system is a mess and no good will happen through voting. Amid this, there are other miscellaneous narratives on how a single vote will (not) bring any ‘huge’ change or the need for representative electoral, etc., etc.
However, one cannot deny the fact that every election season we get worked up on who to vote for or who to vote out unless otherwise, we are following any party or person blindly. That makes it simple sometimes.
Anyway as millennial voters, we are time and again lectured on the need to vote for the right candidate irrespective of the party. Let me illustrate how I have religiously followed it and loosened my stand over time. It was in the year 2015, I have developed a severe hatred against our former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for the scam that put her behind bars for a brief period of time then (and accused posthumously) and the commotion that followed her release. I have pledged to never vote for her party in my life. As fate would have it, she herself contested from my constituency the same year to secure her seat in the Assembly. I stood my promise and researched the candidates and decided to vote for activist ‘Traffic’ Ramasamy, an independent candidate. No extra marks for guessing, Mr.Ramasamy deposit got forfeited and CM got a whopping majority.
Her term came to an end in a year as it was just a by-election. Again she contested from the same constituency and I was still determined. This time I voted for educationalist Vasanthi Devi. As expected, she too lost deposit and Jayalalithaa secured her consecutive term as CM. Later, following her sad demise, when by-elections were declared, I was determined to use my vote to teach the ruling party a lesson as they were increasingly becoming unbearable. Hence I voted for the opposition party, DMK (not the candidate, just the party). To my surprise, TTV Dinakaran, an independent claiming as the ‘real’ ADMK, won. Smart ass tricked people with just 20 Rs. each; anyway people are to be equally blamed for falling in the trap. And to much surprise, DMK lost the deposit. Now it’s again that crucial time to elect a representative. Although one part of me wants to vote out the incumbency, other part wants to recognize a ‘deserving’ candidate.
This time, in my constituency major parties, have fielded candidates of influential background. However, there is one candidate, Ms. Kaliyammal, from fisherfolk community, who stands out and have gained remarkable popularity through social media, for her clear cut speech and attitude fuelled by her knowledge on the understanding of the needs of the constituency. The party that fielded her is a half-baked separatist party run by bigots spinning lies out of nowhere. Yet the need to elect a candidate like her cannot be overlooked for the following reasons;
That said, also, I have serious questions on the credibility of ‘good’ people elected miraculously. For example, why do we not hear much about the good deeds once the popular social activists are elected? For example, Jignesh Mevani won with huge fanfare, but why didn’t we hear about his works for his constituency after that. Ironically, the parties fare well when evaluated collectively.
Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu have been instrumental in the long-term growth of the state, LDF in Kerala has been revolutionary to do away with social inequalities, Kejriwal’s AAP in revolutionizing School education, etc., so it makes me wonder whether voting for the candidate actually matters in the present scenario? However, the party cadres turning into goons and wreaking havoc in the lives of common people and larger than life scams that keep happening also cannot be ignored. But how do we maintain a balance?
It all boils down to one thing-the abysmal role, we, as citizens play in the politics surrounding our lives. We have narrowed down our understanding of politics as just a rivalry between parties and our role in politics is to just vote. We do not even care to register our complaints regarding the lack of basic civil facilities in our street. We do not even care to remember our representative’s names, let alone tracking how they have spent their LAD funds. Irrespective of the party and ideology an elected person represents, they owe to the people. But, if only we are ready to question them and make them accountable.
Politicians have the idea of circumventing people as soon as the polls are over, only because we circumvent political involvement just after polling. With the boom in technology, most of the solutions have come handy. We can always register our complaints in online portals. The complaints redressal is slowly gaining momentum. We can file RTIs online just for 10 rupees. Even if we are not ready to engage in party politics, we should not shun away from using our education in a productive way to keep engaging in politics throughout.
I asked my senior, “Did we really not have had representatives who have worked for their constituency, not as a leader but as an individual?” He told me about the inspiring story of a Dalit leader ‘Kuthambakkam’ Elango, an IIT alumnus who quit his job and ran for the panchayat president election. The people who were hostile initially came around seeing his works and together they developed model gram sabha, eradicating liquor business and bringing peace amid the warring castes in the village. During the first five years, he made a lot of transformation in the village, including creating opportunities for employment generation and education. In 2001 Panchayat election, he was elected unopposed by the villagers. During his second term, he completed all the unfinished works and placed his village in the Indian map as a Model village.
He says his idea is to work from the bottom and grow horizontally. That exactly has to be our idea too. If we all pick up works unattended starting from our streets, we could bring a huge difference. Like Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, we can shake the world.”