Why the middle-class must vote
When Captain Amrinder Singh, the ex-Chief Minister of Punjab, attributed his defeat in the Punjab Assembly elections to the sudden rise in the urban (educated middle-class) voters, it gave me a ray of hope that the fastest-growing population class in the world, the educated Indian middle-class, is finally awakening. However, it was the Mumbai terrorist attacks late last year that finally woke the elites and the Indian middle-class from their deep slumber.
The candlelight vigil became the norm rather than the exception with millions of Indians, mostly belonging to the educated middle-class, coming out with candles to show their support. They felt helpless and cheated by the men in power. The question is - can these candles in the hands of the educated Indians actually be the votes in the coming elections? Can we - the educated Middle Class Indians - who take pride in forming the backbone of India's global presence, actually go out to vote or will we, continue our acts of enjoying the voting day as a national holiday and continue cribbing about India's issues without participating in the voting process?
To ensure that the candlelight vigils do get converted into votes, to ensure that politicians do face accountability from their voters, and above all, to ensure that the educated Indian middle-class finally gets due respect from political leaders who do not consider us as vote banks, WE have launched a movement called Bharat Votes. "WE" includes you, me, and all the educated middle-class Indians who for long have been found guilty of passing the buck when it matters the most and who now need to understand that voting is not our right, it's our duty!!!
Bharat Votes aims to create voting awareness among educated middle-class Indians in order to increase accountability among politicians. Our long-term vision is to engage the educated middle-class Indians in mainstream democracy. As simple it may sound, the truth is that it requires a firm commitment on everyone's part to create this voting awareness. It is not going to be an overnight success story and therefore, to think that this movement will bring about a wholesome increase in educated middle class voting percentage in the upcoming general elections will be blasphemy. That is why the timing of the launch is significant.
The upcoming General Elections will provide us the much-needed momentum. However, our real efforts begin when the election ends - to ensure that we continue increasing the voting awareness among educated middle-class Indians and sustain the movement in the long-run by converting that awareness into actual votes.
So how can the educated Indian middle-class impact the political scenario? After all, we have for ages believed that one vote does not make a difference. A couple of statistics will help in driving the point. In 2004 General Elections, a difference of mere 6 per cent middle-class votes separated the ruling Government from the Opposition. Another glaring statistic shows that for nearly 56 per cent Lok Sabha seats (roughly 313 seats) the winner got less than 20 per cent of the total eligible votes in that particular LS seat. In simple arithmetic, if there are 100 eligible voters in a particular constituency, and on the election day only 50 of them voted, the contestant who got roughly 20 votes (out of the 100 possible votes) won the election from that constituency. In cities with strong middle-class vote base, this kind of scenario is pretty common as most of us do not bother to go out to vote. Hence, it is important for us to understand the significant of that ONE vote.
Also, there are so many important facts about voting that we all are unaware of. Before I started to work on this initiative, I was ignorant of the fact that, if I had moved to a new city due to work purpose, I could register to vote in my new city. Many such more facts have been covered in our website.
Isn't it ironical that as educated citizenry, we do know or can know who the "right" candidate for our constituency is, yet we choose not to vote? Isn't this the biggest disservice we can do to our motherland? It will not be rocket science to conclude that a Sanjay Dutt can never be the right choice to fill a Vajpayee's legacy. It is also not difficult to decode that criminals should not be voted to power no matter to which party they belong. And if all candidates are criminals, we can still use our educated guess to decide on "lesser of the two evils". Lastly, if we are still unable to decide on whom to vote, opt for the right to NOT TO VOTE as given in article 49-O. We generally know all that, however, we fail at the last hurdle - the day when we actually need to stand in the queue and vote.
Friends, this movement is here to stay because it stems from a strong belief and hope that we, the educated Indian middle-class, will finally stand up and be counted. We also strongly believe that time has "almost" come when political parties will have to go back to their drawing boards and chalk out a strategy to "convince" the middle-class Indians about their credibility just as Obama vehemently rallied behind middle-class Americans.
We talk a lot about who will be India's Obama. But it took America a high voter turnout (70-72%) of rich and middle-class to elect Obama. Before we find out who will be India's Obama, it is important to decide who will elect India's Obama - an educated Indian middle-class with a voter turnout of mere 30-35 per cent in which case a Mayawati or a Deve Gowda is a possibility or a high voter turnout of educated middle-class Indians in which case a genuine Indian Obama might do India proud.
The ball is now in your court. Remember, voting is not your right, it's your DUTY!!!
More about Saurabh SaksenaSaurabh Saksena is the co-founder of Bharat Votes. He is a Power Systems engineer by profession and currently works in reputed utility near Boston. He has been in the US since 2003 and has been actively involved in social, charitable, and political events in Arizona and Massachusetts. He is an ex-President of Indian Students Association at Arizona State University.
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