Educated, elite, urban voters are more than comfortable debating and discussing politics in their drawing rooms. They don’t feel obliged however to go to the polling booth to cast their votes and take an active part in making the political system that they complain about endlessly, more accountable. Mulling over which party would be good for their personal interests is just another pastime activity and most people who indulge in this are prone to cynically remark that ‘They are all the same’. The apathy of the urban voter in the last three elections in Telangana is reflected in the number of people turning up to exercise their vote on polling day. Polling figures for Greater Hyderabad’s 24 urban constituencies never crossed the halfway mark and media representatives covering elections have a staple story in the “missing urban voter”.
50 percent of voters give elections a miss in each assembly and general election using the paid holiday to travel, party or just chill at home. What’s worse, this figure is declining below this mark in many posh localities over the years. We all know that the money and muscle power needed to win elections, populist schemes and the expectations of people who pawn their future for temporary gain make the whole democratic process farcical but staying away is not the answer. Even if the choice is ‘of the lesser evil’ or NOTA (None of the above), it is a responsibility that citizens of the country who claim rights cannot shun. Unless the enthusiasm of the young adult who is a first-time voter is retained by citizens of all ages, we cannot see the change that we yearn for. Several voluntary organizations like ‘Lets vote’ have been working towards increasing voter literacy in different cross-sections of society but unless people themselves realize the value of a vote as a weapon of change, we cannot see it manifest.

We must value our vote and realize that the right to vote that we today see as basic to democracy was denied to most people across the world on the premise that they could not be trusted to exercise it responsibly. The drafting committee of our Constitution led by its chairman Dr. B. R. Ambedkar ushered in the principle of universal adult franchise according to Article 326 believing that voting was essential to citizenship. Ambedkar was of the firm conviction that democratic governments were inseparable from the right to vote and that voting was a crucial means of political education. We know of nations where women and other marginalized sections of society had to fight for years before they were granted voting rights. Despite reservations of certain sections that in a country like India where there are high levels of illiteracy, universal franchise could be dangerous and ought to be restricted, our constitution adopted universal adult franchise as an inclusive move. There is no discrimination against the candidates or voters who are part and parcel of this vibrant democracy. We need to value our vote and the only way to do so is by exercising it.