Indian democracy will be good only when we learn to send best candidates to represent us and it is important for all of us, especially the youths, who seldom exercise their franchise due to disinterest, to vote.
IIT alumnus and Founding Working President of Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP) Dr. Bhamy V. Shenoy, who contested (and lost) the Assembly elections in 1989 and 1994, discusses a strategy to make youths vote in the forthcoming Karnataka elections.
In a democracy, the people are the ultimate rulers and should be treated accordingly. However, in reality, we often receive treatment more akin to that of servants than masters. In the private sector, consumers are often referred to as ‘king,’ but this does not always seem to be the case in our democratic systems. It begs the question: Is there any use in complaining to our elected representatives?
It can be frustrating to see our needs and desires seemingly ignored by those we have elected to represent us. While many of these elected representatives are decent and well-meaning individuals, they are also human beings who must prioritise their own needs and concerns. Moreover, many of them are elected by spending large amounts of money to secure votes, and they must then work to secure returns on that investment.
However, we cannot simply blame politicians for this situation. After all, we are the ones who elected them, either by voting or by failing to participate in the political process. By avoiding politics and neglecting to engage with our elected officials, we have allowed the system to become ‘dirty’ and then turn around and criticise the politicians who operate within it. In a democracy, voting is the most sacred duty of every citizen. Unfortunately, we have betrayed ourselves by being indifferent towards this duty. To change this old and deeply ingrained tradition of betrayal, we need to involve the youths in our nation-building activities.
The youths should be encouraged to come forward and get involved in the electoral process. They should understand why we end up with corrupt leaders, who is responsible and what can be done to prevent this. To begin with, they can consider the following three strategies: The youths should go from house to house to urge people to vote. In urban areas where the middle class and the elite live, the voting percentage is less than 50 to 55%. The youths should aim for a 95% turnout.
It is well-known that candidates spend crores of rupees, distribute freebies and liquor and engage in vote-buying through the distribution of currency notes. The youths should collect information on such illegal activities and alert the authorities.
The youths should make special efforts to educate less informed people on how to choose candidates to vote for. They should inform voters that they should prefer candidates based on their parties’ policies, not caste, religion, ethnicity, language, etc. Honesty, competence, concern and actual social work done for society should be the criteria for electing candidates. With the right encouragement and support, our youths have the potential to achieve what may seem impossible today. They can create plans to promote greater participation in the democratic process among the middle-class, elite and literate populations.
They can also gather information on those who engage in illegal cash handouts during elections and report these activities to the appropriate authorities. By joining forces with our Deputy Commissioner and the Election Commission, they can help ensure our elections are truly free and fair.
To encourage greater youth involvement, NGOs such as the MGP and Clean Mysuru, as well as larger companies and well-known individuals such as international cricketer Javagal Srinath, who is the SVEEP (Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation) Ambassador of Mysuru district, should visit college campuses and interact with students to motivate them to get involved in ensuring free and fair elections.
Mysuru’s youths should take the lead where their elders have failed in the past. It’s time to take action and make a difference. Let us make a beginning.