“If you’re not lighting any candles, don’t complain about being in the dark.”

The message to all those elitist, whining citizens who desire the best amenities with the least responsibility is crystal clear. For all their vocal views, social media warriors who abstained from voting in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections proved yet again that memes, puns and criticism, may get them on a virtual high but when it comes to the real world, they are totally disconnected. All that was required was their presence at designated polling booths but our urban voters had other holiday plans. Yes, we are disgusted with the ways of politicians, tired of the rampant corruption in the electoral process, the quality of candidates and the indifference displayed when names go missing from electoral rolls but none of these issues absolves us of the irresponsibility of not asserting our rights as citizens.

The dismal 45.71 % polling recorded and touted as the highest in three years tells us that despite a high octave campaign a majority of the urban voters failed to live up to expectations as citizens. One has to beat the system by being part of it and not remain on the fringe, a place generally occupied by extremists or unlawful elements. Those who are indifferent to elections are like members of a choir group who merely move their lips without singing. Disaster ensues when all members think that the others will do their bit. Let’s not err here, every voice matters in a choir and every vote matters in a democracy.

Drawing room discussions are full of explosive emotions with enlightened citizens giving us rare insights about what’s wrong with our polity depending on which side of the political dispensation they are on (They don’t cast votes but conveniently swear allegiance to one party or the other). If the manifestos of political parties remain the same year after year, and tall promises are made with no intention of keeping them, we only have our apathetic, educated voters to blame. The pact between middlemen who are local leaders in urban slums and politicians is well known as money changes hands and they lay out the blueprint for voter participation and victory. Not surprisingly these are the places that candidates canvass in. These are the crowds that fill up venues and listen to speeches as an election routine. If accountability has to be brought in, we need all citizens to participate in the electoral process and follow up on development. As American educator Robert Maynard Hutchins puts it so beautifully “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment”.