I’ve always looked at voting in the elections with disdain. Who’s going to take the trouble of standing in a long slow-moving queue just to press a button at the end of it? But there has been enough noise created in the last couple of years to make me feel guilty about this standoffish stance. So today, I hauled myself across to the college nearby where the voting booth had been set up. There were about 30 people in the queue ahead. I glanced around at the rest of the people waiting. The middle-class was present in fairly good numbers. I overheard some whispered conversations – “Why are these people voting this time?” It’s as if they were afraid the politicians would not pay them too much heed if the middle class turned out to be a significant vote bank. The arithmetic of the elections can be very different if the middle class just made the effort once in 5 years to spend half an hour standing in a queue. We don’t even try to know who the candidates are or what they stand for.
There was a long list of candidates and symbols in the constituency – all unfamiliar except for one prominent name who has been on the national scene. The unknown symbols ranged from ‘loaf of bread’ to ‘postbox’ to ‘cake slice’ to ‘whistle’ to ‘gas cylinder’ (quite apt, considering that politicians are usually associated with hot air) to ‘tea glass’, ‘slate’ and ‘table’. Considering the number of candidates, it’s quite a job for the election commission to figure out a symbol that has not already been used. There was a contest some years ago asking for people to suggest new symbol options. For those who can’t read, there’s no other way to figure out if they have voted for the right party.
Which brings up the problems of communication into sharp focus. How does the electorate get to know more about candidates if they are interested? I did a search and while I got the names of the candidates from the major parties, there was little else to go on. What had these people done? What were their election promises – it’s quite a job trying to figure out what the independents stood for or why they were standing at all. Unless you tune into TV where every candidate makes the same kind of general speech there was precious little to help in making the decision to vote. But I doubt if anyone’s going to bother. Maybe that’s why no entrepreneur has stepped in. But the actual process of voting was extremely simple. One long beep – and my contribution to India’s democratic process was registered.