In 1988, the 61st amendment to the Indian Constitution reduced the minimum age of voting from 21 to 18 years. At that time, there was a lot of debate about this issue and in fact, the final move was considered ‘revolutionary’. Almost two decades later, it seems that all the controversy was really not worth all the effort. Most urban educated people falling under that age bracket remain disinterested in politics.
None of my acquaintances have even bothered to get themselves registered on the eligible voter’s list. To them, it is almost a certainty that they will not have any say about the next government that comes to power.
Recently, I asked a friend why he was not on the voter’s list despite being almost 20 years old. He answered with a shrug. “Why bother? They are all the same”. This is the typical attitude and frankly, I sympathize. The world of politics has long been embedded in our minds as “dirty” and therefore avoidable. In fact, I disagree with most people who say that the youth of the country should enter politics. Unless they are interested, why should they? I agree that it is a valid argument to say that if they do not take an interest, fresh blood would never enter politics. Yet I cannot help feeling that most of us feel that there are better ways to serve the people and worthier goals to pursue in these times.
However, the unwillingness to enter active politics and complete disinterest towards it are two very different situations and I am afraid that most of us suffer from the latter. How else would one explain the almost-repulsed attitude that most of us have towards voting? It is rather sad because it is a right for which the country had to fight for a long time. Now that we have it, we don’t value it. In fact, one would say that we can almost do without it. This is extremely dangerous as the most vital thing that sustains a democracy is its people. A democracy is a system where we, the people, are required to elect representatives and ensure that they make our voices heard. If we are so averse to our own representatives, how can we ever hope to bring about change for the better? After all, whether we admit it or not, true power is only this legitimate power which governs us. We may not want to be a part of it, but all of us must take at least take a part in forming it and appraising it.
We take this right to vote for granted but we forget that this is a right which a lot of nations still don’t give to its people. In fact, we have such examples from our own sub-continent, where people have long been alienated from the process of governance. At least, we must be thankful that ours is a thriving democracy. There may be scores of parties and politicians looking to promote their self-interest. We may feel that the choice is between the devil and the deep sea. But, the keyword here is choice. A lot of people don’t have it. We do and yet we seem disinterested in using it. We must learn to value what we have.
In a way, globalization has brought us all together, but it has also strengthened the need to be a part of the process which is working towards bringing about a better world. I am sure that all of us want to contribute towards it in some way. And the way to begin is to start exercising our choice in favour of those who we want should take on the mantle further.
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