The weight of every vote in this Election

Every election is an opportunity to say yes or no. Your vote is a right as well as a duty. By voting, you say, “I belong.” Do you?
The weight of every vote in this Election
(Express Illustration | Sourav Roy)

As you read this today, we are in the midst of preparations going around—spearheaded by the Election Commission of India—to host the world’s biggest election ever. The Lok Sabha polls begin on April 19 and conclude on June 1. It is a routine that runs for weeks, culminating with the results day on June 4. So now, India is charged with election fever.

As this unduly hot summer of 2024 scorches on, politicians of each and every party are out there in the sun, campaigning their way into the hearts and hearths of the voter. There are helicopters in the air, flags of every party colour out there, and there is the din and noise of the election on television, print and every other media there is to consume.

All of a sudden, the great Indian voter is feeling very special and in control. This is one season where the voter is boss and everyone else is nothing much. This season comes once every five years. One might as well enjoy its fleeting moments.

Coincidentally, as many as 64 countries go to the polls in 2024, but none of their efforts even match what’s happening in India. 96.8 crore eligible voters are being wooed in India this election. This is four times larger than the US election (24.4 crore eligible voters). Add 10.5 lakh polling stations, 1.5 crore officials on duty and 1.82 crore first-time voters, and the numbers game is in the face. This is bigger than ever before.

Election fever has many dimensions. At one end, it is a fever that grips every candidate, every political party and every party worker who sweats it out in the field. At another end is the intermediary media. These are the months when television news viewership peaks. There is breaking news literally every half hour. Newspapers are filled with constituency-level analyses put together by pundits of every kind. Controversy is matched by a counter-controversy.

The school of scandal is really in full flow. Bad-mouthing one another seems the norm. Negating the word of one with the word of another is a well-honed science.

Rumour and conspiracy theory are friends and enemies that float in our midst every moment. Each one of us is so used to it that no one is really surprised. While a small set of us discount it all as part of the great election game at play, many really swallow the bait. Advertising, event management, PR, propaganda and brand building are the positive forces in full flow. The negative forces of rumour, the planted lie and the planted conspiracy are all tools used by many. Every breaking event is watched keenly at the constituency level by political parties in the fray and fed back to their election war rooms to act and counteract.

Therefore, the overall environment is quite charged. The yen to win is with every candidate and every political party. As of today, the BJP and NDA seems to be totally charged with the “Ab ki baar 400 paar” sentiment, the INDIA configuration of parties seems to be hoping to reap a tumult that is quiet, indiscernible for now, but decisive.

The battle has clearly demarcated lines of the incumbent Goliath being battled by not one David, but possibly many fragmented ones. The INDIA alliance is hoping for an upset, just as the ruling NDA with the BJP in the forefront is hoping for a decisive victory, and a third-time return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm of affairs. While the National Democratic Alliance is depending on the stellar performance of PM Modi and his governance (as overtly defined by public sentiment seen and expressed), the INDIA team is hoping for an upset on the basis of the silent majority and its unexpressed sentiment, which are secrets not revealed till the counting day comes.

The beauty of the election ahead of us is this secret ballot that is protected and respected. A ballot that has had the ability to tell the biggest of the big to walk. A ballot that has humbled the mightiest in the past. A sacred ballot even.

As we near the polling dates, it is very important for all of us as Indian citizens to understand the value of the vote and respect it for what it is. This is a voluntary vote, not a compulsory one.

This vote, however, represents our right and, importantly, our duty. While we can abdicate our right, how can we abdicate our duty? Perform it we must.

A data point important to remember is that the 2019 election to the 17th Lok Sabha had 67 percent of the eligible voter list of 91.2 crore people casting their ballot. Some 33 percent decided not to vote.

Why vote then?

Many reasons. Those of us who do vote, participate. Those who don’t, outsource. Those of us who vote walk-the-talk, even as others talk-the-talk. Every election is a mandate-seeking event. If you and I don’t vote, this mandate has the ability to get hijacked. A mandate is meant to be a majority mandate. Do you want it to be hijacked by a minority that turns up to vote?

Every election brings with it consequences,  social, economic, political and religious. Do you want to hold control on these consequences at all? If you do, you need to turn up and vote.

Every vote is really a voice tapped onto an EVM. The result is but a collective set of these voices expressed in every nook and corner of the country by real people like you and I. Would you like to give up your voice by not turning up? By voting, you say, “I belong.” Do you?

Every election is an opportunity to say yes or no. You vote for the status quo or you vote for change. Both important items that come up for review once in five years. Why miss the bus? Let’s board the bus on your or my polling date. A date to remember. A date to keep.

Harish Bijoor

Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults

(Views are personal)


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