Choose Pride over Prejudices…

Dr Navniit Gandhi
Monday, January 21, 2019

“Vote as though your life depended on it.”
--Jill Telford

Our education in schools is almost always fragmental.

In school, we are never taught that climates can have two connotations: the physical and the political. It is while growing up that all of us realise that there is an environment that is political too; that there are political (unexpected) showers too that can lift or dampen spirits…that there are political winds that can blow in a nation… that there are political thunderstorms that can rock a nation… that there can be even political droughts… that the dust which blinds us can be kicked off by politicians as well!!!

Well, depending on where our initial years of life have been spent, we learn the above lessons sooner or later. We understand politics and politicians faster perhaps in Delhi, Lucknow and Patna than we do in Mumbai, Chennai and Surat. Depending on whether the dust-storms, the thunder-storms, the hail-storms in politics have hit us or not, we understand the changing political winds sooner or later. If riots or reservations or Mandir or Masjid or regional rhetoric or assassinations or Bandhs---have impacted our growing years or have left scars on our psyche---we learn politics and politicians rather early in life.

For most of our life-time, we remain at the receiving end. All kinds of things and events happen with us, while we remain mute and passive spectators. We see it all…we hear it all… we read it all and then we just let out a sigh!!! And lo! Behold! One day elections are announced and the reins fall in our hands. We get this one chance once in about five years to choose; to decide; to exercise our right to determine who shall govern us---and some of us just miss to recognize it. By choice or by chance—we just miss that one day, when we can and should exercise our discretion and decide what and who shall be at the helm of affairs!!! And, why do we just miss that chance? Some of us make plans to go for picnics or parties, since it is a non-working day for most of the people. And some, of us decide to just laze around and feel bored with the prospect of stepping out on a holiday and going up to the nearest election booth. And, a large percentage of us frowns, shrugs the shoulders cynically…and mutters remarks such as: ‘nothing will change’ or ‘what is the use’, and decide to hurl abuses at everyone and everything the whole day, while watching television.

We conduct (by and large successfully) the biggest elections in the history of the world; they are the most mammoth exercise ever undertaken to keep democracy safe. An exercise, which the last time around (in 2014), cost us $5 billion, for arrangements to be made for about 814 million people to exercise this right which the Constitution has conferred on us. Far and wide, crossing difficult deserts, valleys and insurmountable mountain ranges and across the thickest of jungles and deepest of gorges---the election machinery is duty bound to reach each and every eligible voter. However, we---who refuse to walk up to the nearest polling booth that day and instead, sitting in the comforts of our plush drawing rooms-- choose to vent our misdirected frustration and other pent-up misgivings, draw solace and comfort of having done our bit by choosing to criticism the system in abundance that day.

The people manning the election machinery work for years round-the-clock so that on that crucial day—no one is made to walk for more than two kilometers, for reaching a polling booth. It makes nearly 919,000 polling stations ready ---with equipment, papers, and the trained manpower on that one crucial day---so that democracy is not derailed. For months and months---nearly one million people work overtime and over nights so as to ensure that this important right is not denied to anyone. And yet, we…--most often, the educated, choose to throw away that right at the altar of a get-together or a picnic or a bash. Strange, isn’t it? Actually, shameful, isn’t it? Exercising the right may take less than 30-40 minutes on the whole and yet, a large number chooses to not spend even this little time to do our bit towards making democracy sustain itself. And ironically, those from urban India who feel too lazy to take the trouble to vote or who simply criticism and blame everyone and everything---are those of us who have all the amenities at their disposal. Perhaps, those of us with cars, education, comfortable houses, ample water and abundant food and fat bank-balances are the ones who choose fun-filled parties over polls on the day of elections.
Yes, we are disillusioned with the system and with those who man the system. Yes, we are tired of the empty promises and betrayals of our leaders. Many of us choose to stay away because our hopes and aspirations have been routinely ignored for years together…

This lack of interest in polity or political affairs partially stems from the poor quality of candidates who stand in the fray and their terrible track-records. Yes! But by not going to vote---we are not ensuring that good days shall dawn in our country. It’s just that democracy will lose meaning and essence in the country. Agreed that the system is not as we would have wished for, but ‘no system’ will be chaotic. Worse still, the derailment of democracy could mean that anarchy may take over. If all of us sit at home and choose not to vote, someone or the other will still be chosen even if a dozen votes are cast. Some undesirable candidate will still represent us, but if he has the backing of just a dozen supporters---he may choose to become a despot or corrupt beyond measure because there is no ‘public’ that he is accountable to. Even for namesake, his own legitimacy and those of his decisions will quickly erode and if such is the scene all over the country---mayhem and lawlessness will eventually prevail.

There are two issues here: one, a large number of us do not vote and second, those who do vote—are guided by prejudices planted on their minds by a few vested interests.

If an entire generation loses interest in politics, it is difficult to even imagine as to what scene shall lie ahead for our country. Who will take the decisions? If we do not vote, who shall decide that who will govern? Will the decisions taken by those elected by a wafer-thin popular mandate have any credibility and legitimacy? How will our neighbors and other foreign powers react to our citizens losing interest in our system? Will they not try and undermine our existence? Will a government which manages to come to power on the basis of the minuscule percentage of people who have voted in their favor---command respect worldwide?

Instead, let us go and make a choice… let us choose ‘in favor of’ what we believe in and ‘not against’ a person or philosophy or an entity that we want to see defeated… And, when we do go to exercise our franchise, let us for the sake of the dignity of our core institutions and our generations to come---keep our prejudices at bay and make rational choices based on solid performances and credentials of the candidates in the fray. If only we can manage to keep jingoism and rhetoric away and not let them cloud our sense of judgment---our present state of affairs and our future can be different. If prejudices and bias dictates our choices---they shall prevail over our psyche and national ethos permanently and distract us from the real agenda that we ought to have. We must move forward; make rapid strides towards making living better and bearable. Who comes from which background and from which religion or region---cannot be the bases for choosing our representatives!

Elections are the times when we must show that we are keenly interested; that it matters to us; that we care and that we shall seek answers. Such a stance alone can hold this nation and us together in the times ahead…

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, a feature writer and an author. Her publications include several academic papers presented at National and International conferences/seminars, nearly 250 feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and on web portals, two e-booklets and seven Books. Presently, she teaches at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and counsels and conducts training workshops at Gurukul, Kuwait.
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AMER DEEWAN
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Stirring, inspiring, wonderful... Thanks Navneet for showing us (the so called educated, cynical pundits) the mirror...Totally agree with you that we have no right to critise the system if we can not do our tiniest bit to help improve it...very very well written.

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