Thursday, March 24, 2016

In the local body elections this year, I feel cheated as a voter!

Do you know what BJP has promised for your city if it is re-elected to power? And, any clue what Congress has promised for you if given a chance to emerge? BJP declared its city-level manifesto 48 hours before the deadline to end the campaigning for civic body elections. Congress declared its manifesto for the polls a day before that. Interestingly, both parties subtly and directly hinted that the other party has copied their ideas.It does not matter ‘who copied from whom’ but this entire episode conveys only one thing: there is no fundamental difference between the promises made by these parties respectively. We will have to choose between either of these Tweeddledees or Tweeddledums.
Politics in Gujarat has for long been political jugglery between two parties, hence, the lack of an alternative is not a new thing. Seriously, the citizens never got a chance to deliberate on the local urban development agenda of either of the parties. Did we get to discuss the traffic problems, water supply irregularities, solid waste mess created in the city? Did we get to discuss what is the future of the riverfront project or the BRTS? We did not even get a week to look at the manifestos and to deliberate them in detail. We also didn’t get to evaluate the ruling party’s performance in state in the last five years of municipal corporation. We didn’t get time to evaluate the role of opposition party in making the ruling party more accountable. Somewhere, both political parties are going to be happy if there is no demand of accountability or transparency in their decision- making process.
It is true that there is a lot of rush in a build up to this election. But the political parties and the election commission knew that the elections are due, yet they were never prepared for it. It was the High Court’s order, which pushed the administration to conduct the elections in due time. Why would the court intervene if people do their job well? The complacency of not taking the municipal elections seriously flows from the election commission to political parties to local volunteers to the voters. Voters’ turnout is going to be much lesser this time and we can hardly blame the voters for this. One political party might lose the election but as voters and as citizens, we are going to be the ultimate losers. As citizens, we will be giving one political party the right of ruling us for five years without knowing their development agenda. There are no local agendas or promises of changing things in our surroundings. State-level politics of caste, religion and class has crept into these local elections.
I had no rational parameters to choose between two parties. I feel cheated by the system – the election commission, political parties and their candidates. I feel defeated as a voter who wants to see positive changes in my municipal ward. This election translates into losing an opportunity of making democracy work at the local level.
PS: As I claim in the article, the voter turnout was very poor in Ahmedabad (about 27% till 4 pm) but it dramatically increased by 20% in last one hour!

(23rd November, 2015: DNA Ahmedabad edition, Cities Supplement, Page 5)

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