It's the state elections day after tomorrow. During the national elections knew who candidates were and found detailed information about these candidates, the work done by them, their educational qualifications, criminal records and so on. I found this information on sites provided by JaagoRe and also in newspapers.
However this time, during state elections I only have information on the current MLA as he has been constantly sending leaflets, been in news and has visited our society many times. Apart from him, I also know about an independent candidate as he used to stay in my society. A couple of other independent candidates have dropped their leaflets (one of them a four-pager with lots of vague promises...). Yesterday I got a mail from Janagraha the NGO involved in the JaagoRe campaign reminding me that tuesday is election day and that I should go to vote. They referred a website http://www.mumbaivotes.com/ which would provide me with information about the candidates. I had this site earlier, it only has the list of candidates for my constituency, their age and educational qualification and in a couple of cases like that of the current MLA red and green flags against criminal records and use of funds, debates entered into. The site has very little information which could aid in decision-making.
I am really clueless and under the current circumstances I may just end up voting for the candidate who has been making the loudest noise in the past few days and whom I have heard about in the past years. However I am not really comfortable with this decision and would be doing that as I have no other option.
Why this lack of information about candidates during state elections? Why is there no platform that can provide us with vital information that could help us in making a decision. Also maybe I haven't been paying enough attention while reading newspapers (in case they have been carrying information about the candidates). There needs to be information sources on these candidates, there should be televised public debates between candidates.
However such lack of information could demotivate people who already have doubts as to how their vote matters. If we really want to involve the youth we need campaigns like JaagoRe on an massive scale which should inform the youth how and why their vote counts and how not voting means a failure of the democratic process.
Today I know many people, who think that voting is a waste of time as they feel their votes would not make a difference, all the candidates are corrupt or unworthy of their vote and besides they often don't even know who is standing for election; for them election day is a holiday or as in this case an extended weekend, an opportunity to utilise for outstation travel!
I believe that such apathy adds to the woes of democracy, because if the educated middle class do not vote the candidate elected would be one that is voted by the large uneducated masses who though may not be wrong in their choices, may at times vote influenced by coercion or ignorance or recency effect or by false promises of candidates who make use of their vulnerability. Then these same educated people, who did not vote complain about the kind of candidates who get elected. But how can you complain when you have not even participated in the election process.
I can today criticise this point of view because I too believed in this school of thought once. I thought that not voting was a way of protesting against the lack of worthy candidates. However today I realise the importance of participating in the process and that you cannot clean the system by staying away from it.
We need to find out ways and means to involve the youth to take active part in the election process. When the politicians know that the masses are informed about their background, the credibility of their promises, only then will our politicians pull up their socks!