Vote the hell!

Feb 18, 2012, 06:59 IST | Rohan Joshi
At the start of this week's piece, let me congratulate the four of you that voted in the Mumbai civic elections on Thursday. And the rest of you, I hope you're having a great long weekend wherever you are. I'm certain your holiday was worth it, even with the horrendous traffic you probably got on our potholed roads. It won't seem so bad when you're on your way back home on Sunday, stuck at one signal because of unfinished construction work, until you grow old and have children who won't vote either.

Forty-four per cent of Mumbai's registered voters voted in the polls. Forty-four per cent. If Mumbai were a student, and voter-turnout were an exam score, Mumbai's dad would have revoked internet privileges, beat him senseless with a belt, and then used his contacts to get him into medical college anyway.

Mumbai says 'vote'ver: If Mumbai were a student, and voter-turnout
were an exam score, Mumbai's dad would have revoked internet
privileges, beat him senseless with a belt, and then used his contacts to
get him into medical college anyway

By not voting, you've let down the very idea of democratic ideals, have lost the right to complain about anything, and worst of all, you've doomed us all to a billion boring conversations about how not voting lets down the very idea of democratic ideals and takes away people's right to complain about anything.

Thanks to you, every dinner party I go to for the next three weeks will turn into a referendum on the joys of voting, and people will look at me like I'm a heartless anti-national if I decide to get up for a second helping of biryani instead of participating in the debate.

The most common argument we're going to have to face now is that this is all the fault of the "elite". The "elite" don't care. The "elite" didn't vote. The "elite" would cry if they ever had to take trains. That last one has nothing to do with voting, but people seem to say it a lot, so hey. Blaming the elite for the failure of the civic polls is a bit like blaming cigar smokers for global warming.

Truth is, they're the tiniest fraction of the city's population, and it's not like anyone looks to them as opinion-leaders when it comes to voting. Some of Mumbai's most "elite" areas have been dismal at participating in the democratic process for decades, so why should that surprise or disappoint anyone now?

If you've ever met the "elite", you'll know that to them, an official isn't an elected instrument of the state. He's "a friend", who "I know personally yaar", and when the need arises they can always "just call him and speak to him na." It's not that the elite consider themselves above the democratic process.
It's that they have access (directly, or through friends) to an informal power structure that has little need of the democratic process to get their job done. If I have a problem with an illegal dosawalla at Walkeshwar, I don't go to my MLA/MP's office. I'm seeing him at that soiree with those people for that cause. I'll just have a quiet word, and a whiskey on the rocks, make it fast, and make it a double. And if you really want me to vote, stick a polling booth on my armchair.

I must, however, confess that I quite enjoyed the pre-poll campaigns. The Shiv Sena took on the Congress in a full-page ad, which is a bit like Hitler saying Mussolini's got slight anger management problems. In my area, an independent candidate used a stool as a symbol, and I was put in the unfortunate position of being asked to vote for 'Ronnie William's stool'. Another friend found a candidate whose symbol was a briefcase.

"At least he's being upfront about it," he remarked wryly. In what I like to call the "Arindam Axiom", one candidate promised free internet if he won, but since he didn't specify the speed or usage limit, I'll presume he lost. I may vote for him next year though, if he promises ergonomic chairs, an iPad dock and shares in Facebook for everyone.

The bottom line is this. We get what we deserve and we deserve what we get. And I'd like to say more on the issue, but this hotel is really nice, and long weekends are rare things, to be treasured. We'll talk on Sunday. In that traffic, on those roads, we'll have all the time in the world.

Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo.

You can also contact him on

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