Respect your vote, keep bad politicians away

March 17, 2009: The Hindu

NEW DELHI: “Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good; it is but one step more to think one vote will do no harm…..¶ These words of the early 19th Century American essayist, philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson whose teachings directly influenced the growing New Thought movement of the mid-1800s have inspired a Delhi campaign to bring more and more people out to vote.

Organised by “Exercise Franchise for Good Governance¶, a Delhi-based non-political social forum, the “Respect your Vote¶ campaign is aimed at curbing growing apathy towards political participation among the youth, informed and upwardly mobile people and the opinion makers.

Its media coordinator Ratan Lal, Professor of History at Delhi University’s Hindu College, explains that the idea behind the initiative is to encourage more and more people to come out and vote so that they feel responsible about the whole issue. “Governments are formed with just 45 per cent of the people voting. We want this to change and at least 80 to 85 per cent people to participate in the elections. Then only will all the issues related directly to the people – be it water, power, infrastructure or social schemes – get resolved,¶ he says.

According to Prof. Lal, the message is being spread through posters and pamphlets by nearly 100 volunteers who include students, teachers, professionals and members of residents’ welfare associations. “Bad politicians are elected by good citizens who do not vote¶ is what the website of EFG states and this is what the group wants people to understand.

“People should vote. They may make a mistake the first few times, but soon they would realise who is a good candidate and who works for them. This is what a healthy democracy requires.¶

The campaign was first started by the group before the Delhi Assembly elections last November and the results were quite encouraging. Prof. Lal insists that on the Delhi University North Campus itself voting went up from 23 per cent during the MCD elections in 2007 to over 55 per cent in the Delhi Assembly elections.

“This time we expect it to go up further,¶ says Prof. Lal. This nationwide campaign was launched in Madurai on March 26 and would end in Jammu and Kashmir on May 8 after covering seven States. As part of the campaign in Delhi, a “Jog for Democracy¶ was also organised at the Lodhi Gardens on April 11. By roping in well-known personalities like former CBI Director Joginder Singh and former Lucknow University Vice-Chancellor S. P. Singh, the campaign is seeking to make voting a matter of pride for those who have thus far not bitten this fruit.


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