Millennium Post

Lessons from Chhattisgarh

The real test of democracy lies in not how the urban nodes perform in an electoral set up, but rather how the remotest rural corners participate in the national and state polls. It is precisely the extent of participation from the hinterlands that determines the success of the continuing democratic experiment, thereby ensuring a more representative and accurate reflection of the national mood in the election verdict. The latest reports from Chhattisgarh that confirm over 75 per cent voter turnout in the second and final phase of the assembly polls in the state are therefore as heartening as the ferociousness of the debates that currently occupy the public sphere in the election-bound nation. Not only did the people of Chhattisgarh brave the odds and stall near and present Maoist dangers to cast their ballot in the various polling booths of the state, they also came out in droves, especially the women and the new voters, to register their electoral opinions. Naturally, the credit goes to the twice-victorious chief minister Raman Singh, who’s eyeing a hat-trick by securing the popular mandate in this election as well, for facilitating such an overwhelming voter turnout during the two phases. It’s remarkable that the electorates, the police services and the state administration managed to work in tandem to pull off a relatively violence-free polling, with around 75 per cent average polling recorded even in the eight Maoist-hit districts. That this was a nod to the good work done by the Raman Singh government is obvious, but what is even more relevant is the reiteration of belief in the democratic process itself by the ordinary citizens of the country.

This is in stark contrast to the recent reports saying that over 50 per cent of Delhiites aged 18-19 have not enrolled to vote in the December polls in the national capital. Given the growing political awareness, participation of the civil society in matters of state and central policies, even the coming up of a political party that claims to stand for the rights of the common man, the aam aadmi – such apathy towards electoral participation is surprising to say the least. Despite the nation’s zany and technosavvy youth firmly expressing their opinions and mandates on social media, with the round-the-clock television claiming to speak for the politically aware citizens of the country, the momentum is clearly not being translated onto the ground-level involvement in terms of making an actual difference to the ballot box or increasing the voter turnouts. Delhi’s recently released electoral roll data shows that mere 3.6 lakh of those registered to vote in the assembly election come from the age group 18-19, constituting about three per cent of the total number of voters in the national capital. This is significantly lower than the expected enrollment and clearly points towards both the inability of the political establishment and the oppositions to sufficiently enthuse the young minds as well as the relative indifference of the newly eligible voters to play a part in the democratic machinery. This is a shame. If the people living in Maoist heartlands of Chhattisgarh can come out to cast their votes, then the denizens of Delhi have no reason at all not to do the same. Voting is a precious right. Please exercise it.
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