September 29, 2006

City getting ready for Local body elections

If you aren't interested in getting involved in local elections then you don't have the right to crib about overflowing sewers and complain about dead streetlights.

In a fortnight, we will have yet another opportunity to vote for a person to represent our local issues in our city council.

And if we take some interest in the campaign that has begun, we should be able to know who the candidates are and what they stand for.

If you are expecting some outstanding people of the neighbourhood to be in the fray, banish the thought. It will be a long time before educated, spirited and politically-aware citizens convince themselves that they too have a role to play in grassroots politics and community development.

That does not mean you are left with a pack of nobodies or jokers.

The men and women who are in the fray may not be people you can easily relate to but they could have a positive role to pay in our community if we are also prepared to get involved.

Unfortunately, few of us wish to spare time on public issues.

On a wet Monday this week, curiosity drove me to a meeting that had been called by a body which calls itself 'Citizens' Alliance for Good Governance'. This seems to be an umbrella of bodies made up of retired government officials, social activists, consumer activists and the like.

In the chair was a former bureaucrat, A. K. Venkatasubramanian, who has devoted the past years of his retired life to public causes and one of them is to get people to get involved in the grassroot political process.

To encourage community leaders, to get people to cast votes in an election and drive people in community action.

Venkat was obviously disappointed all over again. This was a meeting called to rouse community leaders to get involved in the elections to the city council.

But on that rainy evening, there were less than a dozen men - men who head residents' associations in different parts of the city.

It is this insular attitude that encourages the goondas of the land to run our lives.

I still cannot forget one evening, five years ago inside the Anna University campus, where counting of votes in the 2001 Corporation elections was on. Goondas swarmed the halls in the evening, police officers melted in the dark the election observer slipped away and the stooges of a political party went about toying with the ballots to ensure their people won.

The issue was taken to court and the petitioners were local citizens.
The irony is that the case which relates to that particular election has still not been decided.
In the last city council, most people who were elected won only less than 10% of the votes.
Do we still want to sit tight and wish for good things to happen to us in our neighbourhoods?

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