Why Vote and how should we inspire our youth to vote?

I have been very vocal about Voting Rights and India’s General Elections in 2014 – whether or not to vote is a choice and there is no way you should force voters to vote. But many do not vote because they do not feel so, and reasons could vary from long queues at polling booths to non-trustworthy candidate to a missing Election Card. I have not voted for anyone till date, and my reasons are the last two.

However, I would still go on and rant about bad roads and unhygienic places, to lack of tickets in a train to shady business going around. Many I spoke to would come back to me and say, well “when you never put your vote, you do not have rights to crib about things“. My response to them has been – “you did vote, that didn’t change much, right”?

Personally, it is important to me to have a very strong leader to look up to. In today’s world, we hardly are able to see one and if we see them, worry if the power would change them. The point is, we would want a leader who would run the constituency with as much honesty as possible.

“When you never put your vote, you do not have rights to crib about things”. My response to them has been – “You did vote, that didn’t change much, right”?

This effort to think this subject through is courtesy IndiBlogger’s #VoteForIndia contest in association with WeChat. Please do go through the Policies and Disclaimer of this blog before you proceed as the content below could offend certain views.  🙂

I remember a particular idea coming up during one of the IndiBlogger meets. It was during the Nokia AppTasting Mumbai Meet where Vikas Khanna and Rajiv Makhni, the hosts, were asking people what would be a life changing app for them. Pat came the answer, a Vote App. But that is a long dream, and I do not see this happening any time soon. It is very complicated, and has to be made fool-proof, perhaps not worth the effort and the money in the current system.

So how do Political parties connect with Youth?

Almost all Political Parties and all of the major ones use Social Media and Blogs to promote their campaign. To circulate their Manifesto, to share their vision, portray their leaders and connect with the young and old via this absolute-necessary-in-today’s-time platform. During last general elections, octogenarian Lal Krishna Advani (BJP’s PM hopeful at that time) was regular on his blog trying too hard to connect with the young. But his activity fuzzed out after the election result. And now, it seems to be up and lively again.

It is funny that Political parties in India use Social Media to promote and connect with the Youth of India but never use it for any decision they need to take. That changed with Aam Aadmi Party, when they opted to get in touch with the public before taking a decision whether to form a government or not. You might as well contest and stay correct that Aam Aadmi Party is alone in this league and I do not see any others falling in this line of decision-making.

How to inspire the Youth to vote?

The answer lies in transparency

There are many initiatives by various groups including NGOs who are promoting voting. Prominent among them is the JaagoRe campaign with Tata Global Beverages being their principal sponsor. They go a step ahead in helping eligible but non-voters get an Election Card. This helps in spreading the awareness, enabling the voters and sharing information about to-dos and not-to-dos.

But the question really is, how do we inspire the Youth to Vote. Many feel betrayed by their elected candidate, sad about Governance / Political Parties or generally do not care to think their vote makes a difference. The answer lies in transparency.

The Political Parties should come clean and involve people at many levels. For example, they could ask opinion about fielding which leader in a particular constituency with their performance track record? In a way, this is beneficial to them as well. They would know their chances to win a seat from a particular constituency and people would feel their voice matters. Two birds, one hit!

Some of the things that I would think would make a great App/Website to connect with people and inspire them to participate in the world’s largest democratic elections.

  1. Political Parties should seek voter’s opinion before fielding any candidate. The can use a Mobile App/Website to promote their campaign as well as asking the right questions about candidature.
  2. App/Website should also publish the candidate’s track record, personal wealth (it is mandatory for them to disclose their personal wealth to Election Commissioner) and education background.
  3. They also should publish information about any pending / ongoing Police FIRs or Court cases the leader is embroiled in or has been Accused/Convicted.
  4. Share a manifesto via App/Website which provides, in simple terms their vision of what they would achieve during their tenure as elected government.
  5. Live feedback system where each department level complaints can be sought, with Whistle Blower protection.
  6. Sharing yearly performance figures of each department.
  7. Best Practices learned from overseas trips and their implementation status.
  8. Lower performance be penalized in an appropriate manner, and action taken made public.

I know that creating such a vast mobile app/website would be difficult, but even if 50% of things are done, I am sure the voter will be able to make an informed choice and would be able to make a right choice for himself / herself and be inspired to participate in elections. However, the political party on the other end should make itself believable and trust worthy by fielding a candidate whom the Youth of India could consider voting for.

What would it cost and its acceptance?

INR 100 Crores is the Budget allocated for next year’s general elections campaign by Congress and BJP. You must have wondered where did all this money comes from? Yes, political donations are welcome but the true nature of the money being collected is left to anyone’s imagination. And this would be over and above the amount spent by Candidates – now you would have to get at least 10,000 Charted Accountants to count the total cash being doled out. Did I tell you that it is during elections when you see the hike in Liquor demand even when there is no festivals around?

In a way, this is a great way to stimulate the economy with cash. But its effects are only enjoyed for a very limited time. Almost all Political parties today spend a huge sum on IT. During the 2009 BlogAdda’s Blogger meet with BJP, I asked a question that puzzled (I guess!) Mr. Vinit Goenka, Maharashtra Convenor, BJP  IT Cell, on how much money BJP is spending on Social Media and online Advertisements specifically. To my surprise, he said that “Google does the advertisements for us for free”. I am sure I understood that he did not want to divulge into details, but I guessed that amount was too big to be discussed with a 24-year-old blogger.

“Google does the advertisements for us for free” said Vinit Goenka of BJP during BlogAdda BJP Bloggers meet, 2009 to avoid answering the question on money spent for online advertisements.

Before we get back to the question of what would it cost, there is something that we all know but wanted to draw your attention. Almost all candidates now have a website of their own, with their profiles detailed enough to not make any sense and self patronizing them in pictures. They could do way better, and with a pinch of honesty could solve some of the problems.

With an amount of INR 2 Crores (2% of the total election budget), you can easily make an App or a Website which lists down all candidates (or potential candidates) with complete information about them.

But given the Internet penetration levels in India, this might not work completely. Well for now at least it may not, but with the increasing Internet penetration, the future sure looks bright. A start here would definitely go long way to inspire the youth of this country.

Dirt would come, for sure.

I was watching Zee news one day where a couple of Candidates standing for elections were participating in a debate. What was more interesting, the young lady journalist hosting the debate went to the “Junta” who had come there to hear the debate and asked to if they have anything to say.

Surprisingly, the Junta seemed to consist of people who were either Congress or BSP members, trying to throw mud on their opponent. What is the point of such a public-debate?

Similarly, you would think there could be a way malice could happen, always. It is the people who lead us, people who contest elections who have to ensure such things do not happen. In this country, there still are politicians who pay people to go and vote for him/her. Which is not only bad governance, but also bad for the man-kind.

So, how do we conclude?

It is very interesting topic and we can go on and on to discuss the various possibilities, including making Voting on Mobile reality. But there is plenty of more work to be done before we can achieve that. So in the meantime, we start with transparency.

It is one single most important factor that would help the Youth in India, who are more radical / logical thinkers than of yesteryear where loyalty took precedence, to be inspired (or not to) Vote for India.

Spread the word, use hash-tag #VoteForIndia on your Social Media Apps (WeChat, Twitter)and do your bit to inspire many youth, like me.

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