April 09, 2011

T N Elections: beyond the vote

In the heart of Colachel, which hugs the sea in Kanyakumari district, a cavalcade of union minister and Congress (I) leader, G. K. Vasan grinds to a stop at a traffic junction for an impromptu election speech.
The act takes place in the searing April heat for fifteen minutes but all those who have gathered and are passing by stop to listen and then disperse as the caravan heads to Nagercoil.
In his simple office in Colachel,  Fr. J. Joseph sits back and talks about the involvement of the Christian community in politics and in state elections. Midway, he picks up a spiral-bound file and says, "This has all the information that empowers our people."
The Catholic priest, a Vicar Forane who oversees six parish units in this region refers to a conscious effort by the Church and the community leaders to database all the schemes and projects due to this community which enables people to address politicians and officials and engage them.
Caste, religion and community continues to play a huge role in electoral politics and it shows in the 2011 state elections.
So what role do you play in your constituency?
In a few days, the state goes to the polls. On April 13.
And we will have the opportunity to exercise what is perhaps the biggest gift of democracy.
How many of us will really take the trouble to cast the ballot?
How many of us have given some time and thought to the election process? Who are the candidates? What do they stand for? Who really deserves to be supported? Or do we need to demonstrate our disapproval?
I am a tad unhappy with the overly tight regulations that the Election Commission has brought to bear on the campaigns. There are no posters around that will help us to put a face to a name. To know who the candidates are. There are no spaces where candidates and parties can post their agendas and promises and hang their symbols.
Elections are celebrations too. And campaigns need to communicate.
And while civil society is jumping up to hold fasts and take part in candlelight processions for a Hazare, it does not even contemplate hosting community meets for candidates in the fray and for residents in the local constituency.
This is the time for small and active groups to engage with the candidates in a constituency. And to build systems that will be in place when a new legislator is elected to represent you and me so that the engagement moves forward in the days to come.

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