I am in my world, who comes into power or goes out of it is none of my business for it does not
shape things for me nor will it (or any one) change something I will have to continue doing what I am up to – So tell me why should I vote?

Isn’t this pretty much what we can expect if a random person (be it from the well-to-do strata of the society, the middle treaders or the humblest of the lot) on the street is thrown a question – Do You Vote?

If I could just take everyone back a few years to our school days guess we might faintly remember what we have all been taught in school – ‘Democracy’ as a word has its origin in two Greek words ‘demos’ – the people and ‘krasis’ – power to rule. So we the common people of the land are endowed with this power of choosing our representative – by the process of Election that is. To speak of myself though I had pretty much the same thought that elections are a farce, but I never stopped myself from exercising my right which is to vote for the deserving candidate or party.

Wondering where I am coming to? Then do read on….. It’s a bit long though but yet hope to
have you glued to this 🙂

Over the course of the past few weeks, what started out as a simple but a very important exercise of encouraging the citizens to register themselves to vote – the  ‘One Million New Votes’; (OMNV) Campaign which I am currently actively a part of, inspired me to pen out this article about the campaign and what exercising our right is all about and also more importantly try highlight what really is in it for all of us by being responsible citizens.

The beauty of our Country lies in its rich tradition, culture, its practices and celebrations – let’s also be aware of the fact that as a country of 1.3 billion people, more than 800 million of whom are eligible to vote, India takes pride in being the “world’s largest democracy” but unfortunately it is only a matter of pride.

Very shortly the whole of our State of Karnataka goes to polls to select who will run the show. Herein lies the opportunity for us all to set something right this time around isn’t it?

It’s a contest where winner-takes-all, and for the one who chooses the winner it’s all over until the next time but only ‘IF’ – so mind you this makes it the most valuable process of a democratic setup.

The focus of our campaign was basically our good old Bangalore – for old times sake this was so much the city we all loved – for all that it was famous for, we continue to love it still though much has changed. The ‘BENGALURU’ of today as we all know has beaten San Francisco in Confidence to Go Digital. India’s Silicon Valley now tops the list of 45 global cities, and it is also hailed as the most dynamic city of the world – so much for change. With this change the dynamics of how the city functions, sustains, grows and lives, and more importantly how it is getting administered have all changed or in the process of – for anyone coming back to Bangalore after a while (having born and spent his middle or high school days here) would just be dumbstruck at what the city has transpired into (period)

Cometh the Election Time – though the old charm of election where it was fought more on principles and the desire to serve the people has been replaced by something of a slug fest, a sort of machinery to gain power and use it for personal gains totally forgetting the people who elected them – it’s a time of windfall for all the parties and their ancillaries for this once again presents an opportunity for them to woo innocent gullibles to cast their votes for their sponsored candidates and hand them the mandate to rule.

While India’s cities may suffer more than most other cities from around the world in terms of infrastructure deficits, pollution, bureaucracy, political structure and other ills, we all continue to live in hopes of something that is going to be better tomorrow – daydreaming is good for it fills our mind with some good thoughts but only if we wake up and get active in our democratic setup can we give a bright future for all our future generations which all of us are presently toiling towards but only in a preconceived way – Reality check Eh?

That was something for an introduction I suppose and now jumping straight to the point – The voting percentage of Bengaluru City during 2008 and 2013 elections for the Legislative Assembly of Karnataka was 47.22% and 58.27% respectively.

The above figure shows citizen participation in electing their representatives is much lower in a city with over 1.1 Crore population. This trend can only look good in the view of a political party which is only focussed on latching onto power. On the flipside it shows that half of the City chooses what’s good for the whole of the city. To put things into perspective it maybe a case that person (in a hypothetical situation) who could be at a position of losing his deposit in the elections could eventually walk away as the winner of that particular election if the voting percentage does not increase (result of split in the votes) and poor turn out – you may wonder how but that is quite possible.

Now let me just state below a few things that crop up in our minds whenever an election is around the corner…
●   We look at all the parties and think they’re all the same……. Are you one of the many?
You need to change your thinking.
●   We think one vote doesn’t matter in a general election – and it won’t change anything..
Really? There are instances where that one vote did matter and changed the course of
the system.
●   Or is it that we just simply do not know whom to vote for and very wisely think it’s only
better that you don’t vote? You are happy Ah! What a wise decision I made that I did not
vote for that wrong candidate – Sorry my friend you only allowed him to win – it does not
help by staying away.

●   You are tired or engaged in some activity and decide to giving the exercise of voting a
miss, and in your mind you think it won’t matter if one person doesn’t turn up for others
would have voted (Yes they would have voted but not for yourself or for your choice of
candidate but in all likelihood it could be for the wrong candidate the one you never ever
wanted to win).
●   The general election day is an unannounced holiday – Wow!! lets plan something around
it !! Ah? Really?? Let’s mind it – This would be a costly mistake if undertaken.
●   One final thing – whoever who comes or goes they are all the same it would not matter to
me – well it does matter for you and it would not all be the same, for somebody would
walk away with everything that belongs to the people you care and leaving the city that
you belong to in a much worse condition.

Like this and many other excuses we find ourselves giving have not only eroded the process of elections but also have led to situations wherein a very good percentage of times the wrong candidate gets to run away as a winner because there is no way to stop that person.

Herein are a few brain enlighteners if need be about what is with elections that we should be aware of …

1. It’s your money the government and the council is spending or cutting on.
2. It’s your place of residence, pavement in front of it and your area that could get affected.
3. It could also be where your children study and their fees in a way, not to forget all the
taxes and the other stuff which would be thrusted on us.
4. The government and its machinery is yours too.
5. I am sure each of us have views and opinions. When you become a non-voter you
subscribe to someone else’s views and their opinion intervenes in your life.
6. We don’t vote, we quite literally don’t get counted.
7. The politicians play this game very nicely, they always want to see the least percentage
of voting happening and if we make a mistake of being a rebel by not voting we are only
aiding them.
8. Let’s remember our freedom fighters they are the people who died for us so that we
could have the right to vote isn’t it? Let’s also remind ourselves that people in some
countries even at this moment are risking their lives to be able to possess that right to
vote. In that case we are lucky!!
9. When we say that we don’t actually want any of them to win. Are we sure? A certain
party may be better than all others, and likewise it applies to the candidate also.
10. Being registered to vote is the best for the health of democracy and you can prevent
miscreants from taking undue advantage of the whole setup.
11. Let’s get this fact straight it is very much possible that the people who didn’t vote the last
time around can literally outnumber the votes for any individual party. Any of us could
land in the assembly as per this fact. Just give a thought 😉

12. We need to understand for ourselves that we don’t have to like politicians, or even
politics to vote. It is our right, the one we need to exercise. A decent percentage of them
are hardworking kind and are looking to actually change things.
13. Lets realise this thing If we don’t vote, nothing changes. The same lot gets the next
chance or someone who could be even worser gets it instead.

With all this at the back of the mind with an intention to create awareness and in the same space create a twin platform for the people to not only be able to address all that is wrong with regard to their voter IDs and also allow for fresh registrations the campaign of Voter Registration took off.

Mr Manjunath Prasad (BBMP Commissioner) in the presence of Mr. Harish (B.PAC member), Mr. Srikanth N (From Bangalore Apartments Federation), and Mr. Jairaj (IAS Retd – Ex-Commissioner BBMP) in the midst of Vivekananda College President, Principal and students of the degree college officially launched the OMNV Campaign in association with Team BPAC at the Vivekananda Degree College, Rajajinagar Bengaluru on Thursday, November 2nd 2017.

This campaign trial was like a road trip the one that I really enjoyed for it took us the BCLIPians to many parts of the city which has now grown in circles. The campaign venues chosen were colleges, dwellings of the poor, the oh-so-rich localities, the middle class households, the apartment complexes where majority of the outside state populace have moved into, the roads and bylanes where the common man walks and lives. The agenda for the campaigners was to start on this at their doorstep, their road, their block their area or just about where people congregate so that we catch their attention towards this crucial campaign. In our hearts we were just loving this and trying to do what is best possible.

So armed with all the forms, banners, campaign materials, understanding of the process of registration and with a zeal to match it all we the members set out on our grand campaign covering various localities of the city like Rajajinagar, Vijaynagar, Basavanagudi, Bannerghatta Road, Gayathrinagar etc to mention a few – at all these places it was a concerted effort wherein we coordinated amongst ourselves to help each other out and while the one I undertook in my own area of AGB Layout was a one wherein I got my tiny world involved – my wife and my two twin sons – campaigning to draw the attention of the residents.

Let me know get into bit more of details of the campaigns:
One of the joys I experienced while going to various parts of the city on our campaigns for the voter campaigns is this chance to meet people who are all different and the opportunity of getting to know each of them a little. This campaign exposed me to a vibrant kaleidoscope of people who have now made Bangalore their home.

Of all my campaigns connected to the Voter ID registrations two experiences really stood out for they were so unlike – The first one on my mind is the one we did at the annual Bengaluru Kadalekai Parishe at Basavanagudi and the second one would be the one done at the Windsor Four Seasons apartment complex on Bannerghatta Road. In addition to these two, there are two other ones I would remember for the challenge they kind of presented which would be the ones at a degree college in Rajajinagar & Vijayanagar and the ones which were kind of real, on-the-road campaigns in the city at Subramanyanagar and AGB Layout.

Campaign at the Kadalekai Parishe, Basavanagudi:

Cometh the season of winter – Namma Bengaluru literally goes nuts…. Ahem !!! – the nutty variety -> Groundnuts – the poor man’s Badam. The city’s heritage spectacle – the historic annual groundnut fair, Kadalekai Parishe, is a sight to behold – hundreds of groundnut farmers and puffed rice sellers would taken positions on the either side of the road during this time stacked with mounds of raw, dried and roasted, steamed groundnuts along with traditional toys and trinket sellers, a variety of food sellers complete this grand fair.

It was simply surreal to stand in the heart of Bangalore (never mind the cacophony all around for the place was literally buzzing with people people people all around) and be a witness to this mass urban conglomeration with a traditional root – it needed us to make the best use of our sense of humour and also scream on top of our voice until we cried ourselves hoarse ultimately requiring a speaker setup – such was the crowd and the noise there. This campaign stands as a highlight – a testament to human resilience and adaptability that we have in us. A lot of people did show their interest but it was for another day though asa their immediate attention was on making that purchase of Kadalekai (groundnut) but we created enough traction to drive their attention towards us and our campaign nonetheless – this being the heart of Bangalore and the one famous as the being the home of the knowledgeable crowd it was to be expected that people had their voter IDs in place, we did help who came to us with their questions though.

Campaign at Windsor Four Seasons Apartment, Bannerghatta Road:

We can very proudly say that no city in the country welcomes people like we Bengalurigas do!! Don’t We? It is just that what’s within us, that warmth we have that makes the people who move into Bengaluru never think of moving out rain or shine and I could also say the people who come in influence others to also join them in Bangalore – that’s Namma Bangalore for you.

The RWA at this apartment complex should be given a big round of applause – they have some wonderful people on their board. They had made elaborate arrangements for our campaign – right from setting up chairs and tables to having their staff around to help us in every way if there was a need. A special mention goes to a particular person I believe the association president – he had literally gone to each apartment and made a list which contained details such as if they required a voter ID, and if they already had one what was the correction they required in it if any – it was amazing. During our campaign there we had an overwhelming response – they showed great energy in the process and were very enthusiastic in registering for their voter IDs – this was a real fulfilling experience.

Challenge One – Campaign at the Degree Colleges in Rajajinagar & Vijaynagar:
Voting is habit-forming. The youth of the state are crucial part of any election. When the process of voting is learnt early the younger voters are more likely to continue doing so when they are older. So, getting young people to vote early could in actual sense be like raising a new generation of voters – this was the MAIN IDEA of our campaign target the first time voter. A young voter could influence the rest of the household to vote by himself too.

What we had realized is Registration is sometimes a larger hurdle than the act of voting itself. So by having campaigns at these places and being able to show and guide young people where to get reliable information on registration and facilitating it was the main agenda of our campaign. This was indeed a challenge for all we know this age of brashness and the exuberance of youth often can come in the way with getting the young generation to vote.

Challenge Two – Campaigning on the Streets at Subramanyanagara and AGB Layout:
For more than 3 – 4 hours, without a break, we heard from the people on the street, voicing their concerns endlessly about what’s wrong in their voter IDs if they had one and their queries regarding what was needed to set right all that was wrong. Some said my name is spelled wrong, others said my door number is missing, we also heard some bizarre things like exchange of names had happened between husband and wife in their voter IDs, others wanted to have their voter IDs transferred from out of state, some from within the state, others within an area, some wanted to register but unfortunately could not have any supporting document, a few had never ever got their voter IDs all this while but were interested in having it done this time – inpsite of all these situations but what is to be appreciated was their enthusiasm this was so encouraging for us. It did present a challenge for us in trying to sort all this – trying our level best and showing loads of patience helped us get through.

The common theme across all of these experiences is the significant lack of effort which happens when a task as big as this is planned out and I can only say there are taller tales to be told if we dig deep into this.

The sheer innocence of some of the people I met and their zeal and the very concept of hope they cherished that the world will be a better place for all of us soon, literally drove my engine. Any day I would welcome these interactions for they are much more welcome than the ones we see where the people act so brilliantly, while also making great poses but at the back are only trying to outsmart each other.

Government has all the resources to address these and other issues. There is visible awareness that things must change and a lot of people are getting involved in this nowadays – which is a much welcome sign. The cities transforming themselves to become sustainable is a dream which could transpire. The "lack of political will" can be mitigated by active citizenry.

So I have one this one question to ask – Want the dose of Perplexity to continue or would you instead want clarity to prevail? – you say you want to choose the latter then thumb it on my friend!! Get that ID – again am talking not of your WhatsApp ID or Your FB or not even referring to Your Instagram ID – I am only referring to the “Humble Voter ID.”

If you aren’t stirred to work harder to improve the city by this time I would suggest you to take a campaign ride with us and I am hopeful that would propel you to be doing all this :).

Kudos to all the participants, I wish I can list their names here, It is heartening to see a big stamp of approval for the campaign we undertook. Teamwork, focus and sustained effort will always bear fruit as we are all taught.

As you are aware by now, this effort was about sensitizing those who have not yet registered to vote to go ahead and enrol for there are still large sections of citizens in the city who have not yet enrolled or those who would never consider voting. All these needs to change.

The Campaign message is loud and clear – DEMOCRACY is built on YOUR VOTE. The first step to strengthen democracy is enrolling as a VOTER.

Here’s hoping that more and more people and organizations in the days to come create such platforms to send across a strong message to the government and make the common man’s voice heard in the corridors of power. Thankful to the team at BPAC and all B.CLIP leaders who have involved with this.

In hindsight the events from the past one year of my being involved in social causes have enlightened me and also have helped realize what #PeoplePower is all about for there is nothing like tasting success which is hard fought !! I have seen a few and hope to see many more.

I would really love to leave you all with these simple lines.
“What change you want is at the tip of your finger.”
“Dreams don’t really work unless we do”
Register as a voter TODAY and Do Press on that ✔ for the right candidate !!!!