I’ve never voted. At first it was because I couldn’t understand who was who and what they planned to do when they came to power. More recently it’s been because I can’t keep up with who’s with whom and what they plan to do when they come to power, and who they’ll be with after they come to power, and what that will compel them to do. Political expedience far outweighs both manifesto and track record these days, and therefore as far as the voter is concerned, all bets are off.
But there’s no getting around the fact that the workings of democracy are divided between the voter and the voted for. At least half the responsibility is the citizen’s—not only to elect his or her representatives, but also to hold them to account by demanding the rights that the government is mandated to safeguard, and demanding that Parliamentarians debate and implement policy. In other words, voting is the equivalent of pushing the schoolyard bully back. It entitles you to make a song and dance when the political class fails you.
It may well be true that the choice before voters is between six of one and half a dozen of the other, the unifying factor being that political parties spend the vast majority of their time trying to get into power and then trying to stay there, in order to make vast amounts of money. However, in the tiny sliver of time left over from that, they do have to accomplish a few things. So I finally decided to hold up my end of the democratic bargain, even though I belong to that demographic in which politicians are least interested because it’s too small and too demanding a vote bank.
So I registered to vote. First, thanks to a television ad blitz that has been running for at least three hundred years and has therefore penetrated my anti-ad mental shield, I logged onto www.jaagore.com. It’s an excellent website and gave me all sorts of help, like telling me my Assembly Constituency number and my Parliamentary Constituency number, and the name and address and telephone number of my Block Level Officer. It even included driving directions (both written as well as marked on a map) from my house to my nearest electoral registration office. I electronically filled up Form 6, to submit to the ERO along with proof of where I live and my date of birth.
When I pressed ‘generate form’, however, it said something like, ‘this username is already taken, too bad so sad, and we’re not giving you any of our telephone numbers to clarify how and why this is so, so sucks to you, go to the ERO and get your own damn form.’
Fair enough. I went to the ERO at 1.15pm, though, which they gleefully informed me was fifteen minutes too late. They work from 10am to 6pm, they said, but deal with the public between 11am and 1pm, presumably because our low population numbers don’t warrant any extended public dealings times, especially during election season. Nevertheless, I planted myself politely in front of the grilled, glassed cage that passes for a counter and after they were done licking their fingers from lunch, while smoking a post-prandial bidi, they generously accepted my application and told me that an officer would swing by to make sure I was legit.
Since then I have been stationed by the front door, waiting for that officer to come by and verify that I live where I say I do. So far, no good. They’re supposed to send someone around within two weeks, so they have until Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to see whether I have to start making a song and dance already.