Millennium Post

Capital sheds its apolitical skin

After recording a historic 67 per cent voter turnout on the assembly election day, Delhi has clearly proved that it has left behind its days of political sloth and haze far behind. Although rather pale when compared to the robust 82 per cent registered in Mizoram, 75 per cent in Chhattisgarh, 74 per cent in Rajasthan and over 72 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi has outdone its previous feeble attempts at exercising voting rights and ensuring its participation in India’s parliamentary democracy. No matter how sharply divided the 70-strong Delhi assembly turns out to be on Sunday, 8 December, when the poll results are declared in all five states that went to elections this season, it is to the credit of the Election Commission that the city poured into the streets and polling booths to make its voice heard. Putting up a brave front, the politicians – including thrice-victorious chief minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP CM nominee Harsh Vardhan and making a ‘sweeping’ statement, the man of the hour, Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – relentlessly campaigned not just for their respective parties but also for the act of voting itself. Whether the mandate will be on anti-incumbency, given the tidal surge of wider national sentiments on anti-corruption, inflation and bad governance, is only part of the story. What is infinitely more important is that more than two-thirds of the Capital’s eligible voters cast their ballot and despite scattered incidents of sporadic violence, the day proceeded smoothly. It’s yet another feather on the EC’s cap that it allowed the voting to take place late into the evening, as long as there were voters waiting outside the polling booths, eager to register their valued opinions on the parties, their candidates and the state of the matter.

With a number of new factors, such as the possibility of availing ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option, a new entrant (AAP) in the political amphitheatre energising the Capital’s electoral currents, the watchful gaze of the EC before and during the voting processes, as well as the role of social media reigniting old voters and enthusing the first-timers to cast their ballot, 4 December 2013 was like no other polling day. Delhi surpassed its previous election day’s record in 2008 by almost 10 per cent, and young voters took to the electronic voting machines in droves. Despite the exit polls predicting a BJP clean sweep, not just in Delhi but perhaps in all four big states, it is beyond doubt that our apolitical middle classes have cast aside their traditional apathy and spoken, even if in a broken, cacophonous voice. Whether or not any one party reaches the magic number of 36, required to form a stable government in the 70-seat Delhi assembly, the dramatic support that AAP managed to garner is happy news. Shrill or not, candidates such as Kejriwal and Vardhan have brought back the politics to the middle classes, unlike Congress’ Dikshit, who has had endorsements from the rich and poor, and not the growing middle. Harbouring diverse demographics and contrasting constituencies, Delhi certainly had its grand rendezvous with the ballot machine.
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