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Friday, April 17, 2009

My left INDEX finger is marked!

For the past many weeks we have been hearing stuff on elections – the biggest reality show of India, staged once in five years. This year, due to ample time at my disposal, and interest, I have been following the elections quite closely. In spite of this I have not really felt the urge to vote!

Early morning today, mom woke me up to close the door as mom and dad both were leaving to vote. What? So early in the morning? It is only 8AM!, and it is a special holiday. Well, I just dragged my feet to the door, closed it and slept back.

Watching TV later, me and Dad were discussing the political situation prevalent in the state in particular and the country in general. I was cribbing that the voting process is not online, to allow me to vote at a click. My dad tried hard explaining me the importance of voting, but I stuck to my stance – Why should I take all the pain, stand in a queue, fight the scorching heat amidst heated arguments, and in the end probably find that my name is not there. Even if my name is there, why should I actually take all that pain?

Mom was infuriated as she had to walk back home twice and waste about an hour and in spite of that was not able to vote, as her name went missing from the voters list. I was in no mood to spoil my mood, so why get in at all? Ignore. Who cares? Dad tried hard, and this actually convinced my brother who went out to vote, but the lazy bugger in me was more dominant.

My brother informed me that my7 name was actually there, and I could vote just carrying some identity proof. I thought why not, and set out. I first had a smoke and then after collecting my voter slip went to the polling booth. It was 3:50PM, and the guard there was trying to push me off saying time is over. I had to argue and get into a verbal duel with him explaining him that it is not yet 4PM, and it is his duty to allow everyone till 4, and then shut the doors.

Also this time over, I have observed many people propagating the right to vote. More than the calls for exercising "my franchise to X party", more publicity has been given to the basic right – "call to exercise the voting right". The right to adult suffrage.

"This could be the defining election of our lives."
"Voting is your right and responsibility."
"Vote as if your life depended on it."

You've probably heard all these slogans. Most likely you've seen the political ads and maybe even watched the conventions. So, what's the urgency about; why does voting matter? It's easy to get cynical about voting, especially in national elections where many have been faced with barriers to voting, had their votes discounted or simply haven't found a candidate who speaks to them or their issues.

We have been hearing of sites like letsvote.in, which has been running campaigns all across the country in many innovative ways and using the latest technology. The silent march they held in vizag is a case in hand that I was witness to. Huge hoardings across the city telling everyone about the silent march, and then conducting it peacefully without any noise in spite of the turnout being more than fifty thousand people. Their tie up with a leading online apparel retailer to sell their logo tees is also a case in hand – going the corporate professional way in promoting their cause at little or no cost at all.

One more similar site, though with a funny overtone is BleedIndia.com. It has a funny character PAAPu RAJ very cleverly saying what they want to say. The front head tagline – "No tension. Why vote in election?" is again a very catchy tagline to catch the eye of the reader. An example of their funny antics to get across their point -

Meet our Candidate: PappuRaj, of the esteemed 'Bleed India' party. Read about his manifesto, his beliefs, and his agenda

With funny questions like the below, they prove and make everyone think the terror we would be under just because we don't vote.

This is where your Vote counts!

Who Has Bled India More?
a) Moral Police b) Chor Police

What Is a bigger threat to India?
a) Valentines Day
b) The Recession

The TATA's can never be far for any public service. Janaagraha, linked with industrial conglomerate Tata has been running a campaign that berated youngsters with this slogan: "If you are not voting, you are asleep." Janaagraha's Web site has received millions of hits, and has helped 500,000 Indians register as new voters.

An average youth feels like, "come on! It does not affect me. Why should I vote?". " I rather go on a date with my girl, or sleep maybe!". The message cuts it well, "dude, you not safe with your girl in the presence of the Rama Sene's of the country!"

Now the issue – why are these campaigns so much important this time over. The 180 million people under 35 who are going to vote this year, and the 43 million of them who will be first-time voters. A huge number, and if they are to vote this year and every season that comes as a responsible citizen, this is the best time to educate them of their responsibility.

I was the last person in the queue, and thus the last person at the polling booth to exercise my right. Yes, I have just returned back from the polling booth, exercising my franchise, and smearing my left index finger.

Tail piece:

One more thing that seems to be in fashion this season is "hurling of footwear on leaders". The latest victim being our own Prime Minister wannabe – L.K. Advani.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani became the latest 'slipper' gate target on Thursday. Pawan Agarwal, a BJP worker, threw a slipper at Advani on Thursday.

Earlier, a retired school principal had thrown a shoe at Congress MP Navin Jindal in Kurukshetra.

In a similar incident, an agitated Dainik Jagran journalist Jarnail Singh threw a shoe at Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram during a press conference at the Congress headquarters in Delhi.

Last December, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network, had thrown his shoes at former President George W Bush during a news conference in Baghdad.

Well, when will our habit and obsessiveness with everything western change? Change – See, even I am forced to use the slogan word of Obama's Campaign!

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