Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vote, and see the difference

Today is polling day in Tamil Nadu as well as in some other states. It’s become a sort of ritual in our family – we get up early and reach the polling booth, a Corporation school nearby, by 7.30am or so. Today was no different. I was glad my octogenarian mom could come along as well. She has been an enthusiastic voter over the years and a keen follower of politics in our country. I sometimes wonder how the older generation had it all in them – discipline, honesty, energy for hard work, capability to raise large families, ensuring that children were given the best education, and a comprehensive understanding of local as well as national and international events. All this without the computer, mind you. At least most of them. My mother has never pressed the keys on the computer nor has she ever held a mouse. She doesn’t have a mobile phone of her own. But she makes up for all that with reading the newspapers (two of them) and keeping pace with television coverage. She has a broad understanding of events, a gut feel of her generation that is often difficult to explain, but which helps you decide one way or another – not about whom to vote for but about taking decisions in life.

Well, there seemed to be adequate security at the polling booth we went to. A police officer said that people had started arriving by 6.30am and that they had to be asked to come back later. Party symbols and the names of candidates were displayed and the policemen and women on duty were eager to help. I saw polling staff help an old man right up to the electronic voting machine (EVM) and when he requested for help, his daughter was called in. It was all nice and friendly. And that is the way it should be. As we were leaving, we spotted a father and daughter being refused admission because they did not carry the slips of paper that should have contained their names. Party representatives here visit homes distributing slips of paper that have names of voters, and the symbols of political parties as well. Many carry these slips with them to make it easier for polling staff to locate their names in the voting list.

The voting list, I saw, not only contained names but also pictures of voters, identical to the ones on the identity card. Remarkable indeed, and those who were part of the exercise must be lauded for all the hard work that I’m sure must have gone into it. I also received a call from a friend saying that she was not sure her name was on the voting list. There were reports in the media about film star Kamal Hassan’s name not being in the voting list. Good heavens!

If Mumbai saw 41% of voters turning up on polling day and Delhi 50%, Chennai, I feel, could register a larger percentage. It’s time the middle class went out to cast their votes. Enough of complaining – about leaders, issues and stuff. If we don’t come out and vote we forfeit our right to complain. Voting is our birthright, and it gives a good feeling, too. So, those of you who are undecided or who haven’t ever visited a polling booth, please vote. Your vote counts and will make a big difference to the future of our country.

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