A reflection by a first-time voter on the absurdity of voting by choosing the lesser evil
At 18, the upcoming Delhi elections are going to be my first venture into electing a representative as a first-time voter. Stuck at the crossroads of poor choices, I am baffled, confused and even horrified by the fake news, melodramatic insincerities, unimaginative ideas and even sheer indecencies of language at play, from all sides. Contradictory opinions and suggestions abound on the preferred option from my friends and family, whilst peppering their stances with sad prefixes and suffixes like "given the choices", "there is no alternative", "at least better than others" and such-like helpless notes that really suggests the lack of a truly credible, transformative and progressive option that can be grabbed, without any 'ifs' and 'buts'.
Aside from its obvious political and cultural importance as the capital of the country, Delhi refuses to abide by any singular identity, be it linguistic, cultural or religious. Strangely, such a multiplicity of identities within Delhi truly make it the ideal 'capital' of the idea of India that belongs to all in equal measure and not to some in more or less. Delhi is the totality of the emotions and aspirations of India that lives within it. It finds expression in the old refugee colonies of Rajendra Nagar and Chittaranjan Park. It is in the Tibetan dominated areas of Majnu Ka Tila. It is Bhairon ka Mandir in the quaint backdrop of Purana Qila. It finds voice in the Hauz Khas melee where Mughal era tombs intersperse with night clubs, tattoo parlours and modern art galleries. It is in the South Indian dominated area of RK Puram where I went to school and passed the Ayyappa and Balaji Mandirs on the way. It is in my own essentially-Jain dominated residential colony, where my family, being onion and garlic eating non-vegetarians, are a happy minority.
Framing an inclusive, progressive and sustainable plan for a population that exists simultaneously, as a collectivity called Delhizens, as well as the multitude of little sub-groups that form this beautiful collectivity isn't an easy task and shouldn't be treated as such. Plans that attempt to uplift the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of the population – the millions of slum dwellers, job-seekers, homeless that sleep on footpaths and under flyovers, as well as those at risk because of identity (caste, religion, or gender), needs reassuring ideas and solutions for generating resources and judiciously deploying the same. What we are essentially hearing is the 'us-versus-them' narrative (Pakistanis routinely make an appearance in our imagination), 'freebies' galore narrative, personalised attacks and innuendoes of unimaginable lows that shame us as a civilization and its citizenry. The rot is not coming from what can be conveniently attributed to as the 'fringe elements', instead it comes from those at the very top of parties and echelons.
The ruling AAP is reiterating its 'work' and alluding to the doomsday scenario if it were not to be elected. It has certainly emerged as a party with many loyalists who claim change but is that not essentially populism, made unsustainable by failing to draft a road map of revenue-generation ideas to sustain the momentum? Free bus rides for all, free homes, free water, reduced pollution, etc., is indeed aspirational but it would take a lot more rigour in explicitly stating the 'plans' on how to do it all. BJP has retaliated with its own laundry list of competing freebies to make a 'world-class city' (2 lakh for the poor girl child, free bicycles and electric scooters for every poor college-going girl, etc.), even as it accuses AAP of reckless promises. The BJP manifesto ironically talks about high unemployment (belated acceptance perhaps?) and its manifesto guarantees 10 lakh jobs for the unemployed and guaranteed work for contractual employees. The most important question on 'how' is as usual missing! Not to be left behind trailing the thunder of two principal parties at stake in Delhi, the Congress has made use of its roster of ideas 'collected from people' and the party has the usual promises around free electricity and monthly unemployment allowances. Basically, it is the open season for raining unsustainable promises and very shameful insults!
Across oceans in the US, in the Presidential elections (which are still 10 months away) the constituents are getting fed hard 'plans' with numbers, allocations, priorities and agendas to help make more informed choices. They are discussing individual positions on things like education financing, affirmative action, green deal, carbon tax, gun control, healthcare, net neutrality, electoral reforms, campaign finance and societal issues. Each plan (or 'promise' as we readily call the same) is whetted by experts, questioned and counter-argued vigorously to answer the important question of 'how'? People want to know the feasibility, practicality and above all, sustainability and morality of each action. Whereas we in the largest democracy in the world, from the land of Gandhi, Buddha and Ambedkar are luring our constituents with 'goli', 'biryani', 'freebies', 'anti-national' and then the ultimate brahmastra i.e. 'Pakistanis'!
It is frankly not the politicians who have failed us, we too have failed ourselves with the sort of passion, piety and reverence that we attribute to our political leaders. Our polarised emotions don't allow to us accept the political leaders as anything other than gods or devils, nature ordained grey simply does not exist. If this is the quality of plans and future that I am 'promised' in Delhi, I wonder about the fate of those in the less-visible places that are away from the prying eyes of the media and the world at large. All my perceptions about the 'responsibility' of power, my civics and social science classes and my school projects on democracy seem so distant from reality. Perhaps the elders were right after all, as it is not by selection but by a process of rejection that one is forced to make a choice. Choosing the lesser evil might be the right answer here but that is indeed a very sad state of affairs.
The author is a first-year law student. Views expressed are strictly personal
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