Ideas

The Lazy Urban Voter: Why Bengaluru Has Lost All The Right To Complain About The City’s Potholes

Voter queue in Karnataka. (Twitter)
Snapshot
  • A non-domicile voter card linked to the Aadhaar is a way to push the lazy urban voter to exercise his franchise.

In less than 24 hours, the much-awaited results to the Karnataka assembly elections will start trickling in, and it is believed that this could have a ripple effect on the elections to the Lok Sabha next year.

Karnataka is the last bastion of the Congress. So, rest assured the stakes are very high. And so was the voter turnout in the state. "The voter turnout in the polls broke all records last night. By midnight, the figures showed that it was 72.13 per cent," said Chief Electoral Officer Sanjeev Kumar on Sunday, as quoted by The Times of India.

The 72.13 per cent voter turnout is said to be the highest since the 1952 state polls. But, the state capital has a different tale to tell as do other urban centres. The voter turnout was not only dismal in the silicon city but also less than the last elections. Having not fully exercised their franchise, the Bengaluru residents now have no right to complain about the sorry state of affairs in either the city or the state.  Almost half of Bengaluru (Urban) didn’t vote. With a disappointing 51 per cent, Bengaluru (Urban) fared worse than its 57.33 per cent polled in 2013.

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Bengaluru failed miserably even in comparison to not just the neighbouring Ramanagara, which saw the highest voter turnout of 80 per cent, but also its rural counterpart (Bangalore Rural), which witnessed 78.26 per cent voting.

However, it is nothing new.

In 2013 Bangalore South saw just 56.03 per cent voter turnout with Bangalore Rural registering 57.33 per cent. But why?

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Same was the state of affairs where I voted. The coastal districts, which are said to be another fierce battlefield for the two major national parties, saw 72 per cent turnout. I’m a voter from the Mangalore South Constituency, which again is an urban voter base compared to the other constituencies. And yet, the rural counterparts fared better than my constituency as it is said to have seen only 67.47 per cent of its voters come out and vote. Puttur, Sullia, Bantwal and Belthangadi, which are the semi-urban/rural constituencies, beat the urban populace hands down with 81.70, 83, 81.89 and 81.40 per cent voter turnout respectively, way above the state average.

So what answers do these urban dwellers have to give for not exercising their franchise when they are the ones who complain the most? Even if the malpractices, the bloated electoral number or any other fringe reasons are to be taken into account, we still cannot justify a terrible 51 per cent.

And many blame their ‘non-availability’ or their lack of means to get to their ‘hometowns’ to vote.

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Would these urban voters dare to not turn up for their corporate meetings or that distant cousin’s bachelorette, no matter how ‘distant’ the location?

With the state bus transport agency providing extra buses within the state, and the respective party people trying to ‘help’ with travel arrangements, the ‘urban’ voter was not all that deprived of either the means or the technology to exercise his/her franchise.

If that be the case, and we wish to see a larger participation in this celebration of democracy, it is time that we fix these barriers; for, we sure, have the means to do so.

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Non-Domicile Voter

Like there are facilities for a non-resident Indian to register himself in the voter’s list, a non-domicile voter card linked to the Aadhaar could be issued, which enables remote voting. One Aadhaar Card, which my voter ID is also linked to, is entitled to one vote. And If I am a holder of this non-domicile voter card, I should be able to vote (if I reside within the same state) at any of the booths or online. With a high rate of inter-state migrations in the country, this would enable a higher “local” voter turnout.

The ones who are not able to vote in their hometown, can get themselves registered in the area of residence, or will have to mandatorily vote in the area of domicile. And linking it to Aadhaar would leave no scope for either double voting or not voting. This should be applicable to those who cannot physically make it to the polling booths (elderly, disabled and critically ill). If I can vote in the comfort of my living room (like so many Indians frivolously do for actors ,singers, dancers of reality shows), then at least the lazy urban voter, who is citing anything but his lack of political awareness for not having voted, will vote.

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This will ensure the holes are plugged as far as the voting process is concerned. As a form of reprimand, there should also be a way to ensure people are stopped from availing any other benefits if they don’t vote. At least, we can, through this remote voting facility make voting not just a right but a duty (which it still is, technically) - a duty that binds every privileged citizen of this country to exercise his franchise, and not give reasons for not voting.

A democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But if the voters do not work to make the government ‘of’ and ‘by’ the people, they have no right to call it ‘for’ the people.

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