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The middle-class needs to vote…slum dwellers do it for a bowl of chicken soup!

February 1, 2007
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Films stars influence people a great deal. We have a situation where mostly the slum-dwellers go out and vote. The elite sit at home and watch the elections on TV! Usually, during the civic elections in Mumbai (which are now round the corner), the average turnout is 35-45%. In some areas where there are hardly any slums, the turnout can be as low as 10%. The highest percentage of those who vote are from the slums. And they do it for paltry sums…even a bowl of chicken soup (see end of this write-up) suffices!

Preity wrote an article in the Mumbai Mirror, urging more people to vote.

“We all should be proud of Mumbai, and it’s very sad that lots of people don’t vote. If you go out there and do the right thing, it will make a huge difference to this city,” she says.

This article states:

“Sometimes, the turnout is as low as 4% (Gorai in 2002) or 14% (Geeta Nagar, Colaba in 2002). Sometimes, the outcome in a ward is decided by a flimsy margin of less than 200 votes, with voting highly segmented in favour of various parties. Little wonder then the winning margin last time in ten of the 227 electoral wards was less than 100 votes. And this despite the fact that most wards then had an average population of about 40,000.”

Excerpt from here:

“With more than 50 per cent of Mumbai’s 12-million-strong population living in slums-and the elite known to be notoriously apathetic – your candidates are very likely wooing the slumdwellers in the neighbourhood shanty town.”

Another excerpt from here:

“In Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay, the paupers have real political clout. Slum-dwellers constitute half of Mumbai’s 12 million citizens, and they are faithful voters. That makes them an important bloc for local politicians, most of whom promise to fight efforts to relocate them.”

The poor vote the most!
Politicians target slum areas and campaign there (and give them sops too) as that is where the numbers lie. Also, it is easy to buy votes in the slums. How can one blame an illiterate person who can barely feed his family if he gets a few thousand rupees to vote?

My maid tells me that the Shiv Sena party is paying Rs 500/- per vote in her slum. And if people can go around collecting votes, they are given lakhs of rupees. Young unemployed youth are roped in for this job. She admits that she too is voting for the Shiv Sena. Another maid of mine says she is voting for the Congress. Why? Because the Congress representative gave money to people after the 26th July Mumbai floods. Even those who were not affected got the money she says proudly. In fact both my maids (voting for different parties) were competing with each other while recounting what they ‘got’ to vote. They were listing the number of items that were presented to them and to the kids in the family too. One of my maids was thrilled that an added bonus was chicken soup!

Welcome to the reality that is India. Very few people care about the character of the person they vote for. For them an election is like a birthday…time to collect presents!

(Picture sourced from Starswelove)

Related Reading: Politicians steal to give to the government

8 Comments leave one →
  1. ashima permalink
    February 1, 2007 10:28 am

    Maybe it should be made mandatory by law to vote?

    In Australia, voting is mandatory and if you do not vote, you are fined.

    If you do not feel strongly about any of the candidates, an unmarked ballod paper can be submitted as a vote, however it is necessary to get your name ticked off on the register.

  2. February 1, 2007 4:32 pm

    I voted for the person from the party I generally back. Sadly, I don’t know anything about this person, so if this person gets elected and proves to be third-rate, I’ll know I helped him get there. But this was a lesson for me. In the next election, I’m going armed with some background info about the candidate I support! Heck, if I do it, I’ll do it the right way!

  3. February 1, 2007 4:41 pm

    Nita – reading about voting in your neck of the woods made me think really hard on how wooing of voters (and what they are promised) may be similar, yet different here with us. Here what is promised or given as “sops” is deferred to a relatively short future time because we have systems in place in the now that largely prevent “shantytowns” and large populations of slum dwellers. I remember a curious handing out to every voter in my province limited number of “shares” in a “crown corporation” ( this happened @20 years ago). This I knew to be a shabby political “sop”, and never requested my shares, nor those of my son. My husband also declined. Chicken soup might have been preferable in the short term. I wonder how many of our citizens used their shares as fire starter?

  4. February 1, 2007 6:55 pm

    God knows what the elected representatives do for five years anyway since there is no monitoring mechanism to see their performance in parliament of for the consstituency. The whole process is “pretty murda” and has to be addressed in totality by Preity Zinta- even in hindi films, heroines are more style than substance normally.

  5. February 1, 2007 7:27 pm

    Ashima, I had no idea that voting could be compulsory. What a wonderful idea! They should do it here too!
    Suburban, over here it is the politicians themselves who create the slums by encouraging villagers to settle on public land so that they get a vote bank. And then these same politicians get voted in…its a vicious cycle.
    And yes, in any democracy there are always those who give ‘sops.’ Even here these things are forbidden by law, you cannot do it during or before the elections. But I am afraid that India has many excellent laws which are not followed. Law enforcement is weak. Lots of reasons for that which I am going to write about soon.
    Some say that the situation India is in now (weak law enforcement), democracy is not a good option. Democracy allows bad people to be voted in…but I don’t mind if it takes longer for India to grow economically. I don’t ever want India to be like China. A poor democracy is better than a rich autocracy.

    • anshum permalink
      October 25, 2009 12:07 pm

      I still can’t understand why do they vote for the people who give them money.Can’t they just take the money they get during election time and vote the party who didn’t gave any money during the election time.After all who knows who voted for whom.

      • October 25, 2009 12:29 pm

        anshum, the political bigwigs come to know because people usually vote in groups, there is what is called the herd mentality. Whether families or small communities. Also I have talked about this to some people who actually vote because of the money and I was told that it is gratitude and also hope for more. If they vote for a candidate who does not bribe them then it means that this candidate will also not give them other favours. As long as our country is poor, and it has more corrupt voters (poor, middleclass or rich) than honest ones, this bribing will go on.

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