Editorial: Voter apathy is linked to class

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Tuesday, December 06, 2022, 11:15 PM IST
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The more urban the voters, the more apathetic they are. The just-concluded elections in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi prove this beyond a shadow of doubt. Take the case of Delhi, where urban infrastructure facilities are undoubtedly the best in the country. In other words, Delhiites have access to good roads and enjoy round-the-clock water and electric supply. Yet, an overwhelming majority of the affluent voters preferred to sit at home while the rest went to the polling booths to exercise their franchise in the recent municipal elections. On the advice of the Election Commission, many public and private agencies had mounted a campaign to educate the Delhiites about the need to vote. If the overall voting percentage crossed 50%, it was only because there was heavy polling in the slums and the “rural” areas. The situation in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh was no different.

The voting percentage in Gujarat in the first phase of polling was 63.3% which was less than the 66.75% recorded in 2017. In the second phase, the percentage was still lower. What dragged down the overall%age of polling was the extremely low turnout of voters at the booths in the urban centres of the state like Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara. The phenomenon is clearer in Himachal Pradesh where the voting percentage was 62.53 in Shimla, against the state’s average of 75.6. Most of the residents of Shimla are government and municipal employees, teachers and other professionals. No town in the state has comparable standards of urban infrastructure. The per capita income is also the highest in Shimla. Incidentally, the government spends much more on the residents of Shimla than on any other section of voters. Yet, 38% of voters in Shimla preferred not to cast their votes.

In fact, poverty and voting are co-related. Dwarka in Delhi is a sub-city where more than 300 housing societies exist. This gated community enjoys all the civic amenities but it does not show much enthusiasm in exercising their franchise. In contrast, those living in slums and unauthorised colonies show greater interest. The right to vote is the greatest right that a citizen enjoys. The quality of the government is dependent on how judiciously the people vote. If the educated and the supposedly well-informed sit at home, it is the choice of the illiterate and the less-informed that will ultimately prevail.

Petty politics behind border dispute

Incidents of stone-pelting reported from the Maharashtra-Karnataka border at the toll plaza at Belagavi are certainly disconcerting. There is no justification whatsoever for such violence, which needs to be condemned by one and all. More so when a ministerial-level Maharashtra team which was to go to the border to hold talks with the Maharashtrians there was called off. The dispute is as old as the State Reorganisation Commission which formed states on the basis of language. The Keralites had difficulty in reconciling to the loss of Padmanabhapuram, from where the Travancore royal house ruled the state. Some villages in Kasaragod in Kerala are essentially Kannada-speaking but they remain in Kerala. It is for petty political reasons that the Karnataka-Maharashtra dispute has suddenly been raked up. It’s not in the interests of the people of some villages in Sangli, Solapur and Akkalkot that some politicians in Karnataka demand that they be attached to Karnataka. Maharashtra is also well within its rights to make counter-claims.

All this is disturbing, as the matter is already before the Supreme Court, which alone can hear and settle inter-state disputes. They have a tendency to go out of control, as they are also emotional in nature. It is surprising that the issue has cropped up when both the states are ruled by the same party and its allies. It should not be difficult for Chief Ministers Basavaraj Bommai and Eknath Shinde to sit across the table and take steps that would defuse the crisis and restore peace. If they feel strongly about their contentions, they should knock on the doors of the Supreme Court. The Union Home Minister cannot remain just a spectator when both sides threaten violence.

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