Time To Vote, Especially the Youth-It’s Your Right, Privilege and Responsibility

“True Democracy cannot be worked by twenty men sitting at the center. It has to be worked from below, by the people of every village. My notion of Democracy is that under it the weakest shall have the strongest opportunities as the strongest. Be the change that you want to see in the world”-Mahatma Gandhi

“Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. It means that we are not here to serve our government, but that our government is here to serve us ? and we have the right to decide who will represent us and how we want to be represented. It means that we have one of the greatest rights any free people can have: the right to vote.”- Abraham Lincoln 

Across Mangalore, Dakshina Kannada and Karnataka people of all walks have the opportunity to participate in one of the basic exercises of our democracy, a fundamental part of what makes India great – voting. During the forthcoming Assembly election the voters have a tough choice to make-they want the rotten system fixed. According to a survey conducted by a leading national newspaper, corruption in the state is the biggest problem facing voters. However, the anti-graft feeling is unevenly spread across the geographical and demographic map, which tells its own story.

Many voters say that the state deserves stability after five years of present governments ‘misrule’, and they want a change-and change could only be possible by casting our valuable votes. People in the age group of 18-30 years and 31-45 years feel strongly about corruption and want it to be addressed as priority. Read what few of the leaders had to say prior to the forthcoming Assembly elections:
“The need for change is now, because you have suffered a lot under the BJP government, Corruption has reached unprecedented levels. The mining mafia ransacked the environment and looted the wealth. Fanatical elements spread hatred among people. BJP allowed loot, we will restore lost image. A stable government is the need of the hour for Karnataka” –  AICC President Sonia Gandhi
” Corruption has become a habit. Society respects wealth. But, society’s attitude towards wealth should change. Those with illegal wealth shouldn’t be respected. I am happy there is an increased awareness among people. I am hopeful of ‘Change’ (So it seems, are the voters!) – Former Lokayuktha Justice Santosh Hegde.
“BJP has faced the challenges but had stood by its ideals in Karnataka. As there has been four-fold improvement in infrastructure among others we hope that the BJP gets another opportunity to serve the state”-Opposition Leader in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely.
“Both the BJP and Congress have become infamous because of their corrupt practices. While the BJP has looted public money in Karnataka, the Congress has done it in the Centre. Voting is a sacred right and people should use it wisely and properly”- Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP) Supremo Mayawathi.
” We will win majority of seats in the forthcoming elections, and will form a stable government. Voters are fed up with BJP and Congress”-JD(S) President H D Kumaraswamy.
Yes, having heard all these leaders campaigning hard to gain valuable votes favouring their respective parties, it’s up to the voters to make a wise decision/choice and vote for the right candidate. Yes, millions will go to the polls and then watch with vested interest as results are tabulated and made available. It’s an invigorating exercise in self-government, and despite heated races and stark difference of opinion on the issues and candidates, for a brief time – 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 5 May, 2013, Karnataka people can be thought of as united in the sense that those who vote are re-enforcing our State’s structure.
We have seen, it’s always the middle-aged and the older people in large numbers that take all the trouble to go and vote-this time youth need to make up a strong decision and should cast their valuable votes-your participation is very much needed in bringing a change. I feel sorry and repent that I didn’t vote during my younger days-no one encouraged me nor advised me the rights and privilege by being a responsible voter. Although I didn’t get an opportunity to vote as an Indian citizen, but living in United States for 23 years and being a US Citizen I had the greatest privilege to vote four times in the US Presidential elections (the fourth time, for the US Presidential election which took place just few months back I voted while being in Mangalore, by “Absentee Ballot” via mail)
Quite overwhelmed, I feel proud to say that four times that I voted in the US presidential elections, all the four times my votes were counted to valuable and fruitful -because for the first time as a US citizen I voted for Democratic Bill Clinton, he won  to become the 42nd President of USA; from being a supporter of Democratic I switched gears and voted for George W Bush of Republic party, and he won to be the 43rd President of US; later it was history, when America was looking for a major change in the government, I along with millions of youth and older, supported and voted Barack Obama into power to be the 44th President.; and in November 2012 I again voted for Obama by “Absentee Ballot” via mail since I was in Mangalore, and he won for the second term. And if we all are looking for a change we need to vote. Can we do it? “Yes We Can “.

Those who could vote and don’t, miss an opportunity to go beyond enjoying the benefits of living in our wonderful State, they deprive themselves of the feeling of pride that comes with knowing they recognized their role – perhaps even responsibility – in our government. Those who do vote are enjoying a privilege that has been paid for in blood over the course of our history.
Excuses for not voting are ageless and plentiful – lack of familiarity with issues and candidates, inconvenience, weather, anger at the government, feeling of futility. The list goes on but, in most cases, they reflect an inability to pull back and see the big picture, the need for Indian citizens to take part in the process. Voting is a right that, throughout history, many have fought for and sacrificed everything to achieve. It?s a right that people continue to fight for and that millions of people throughout the world still do not enjoy. But Indians have the great privilege to vote and bring a change in the government system.

Why Should I Vote? Maybe you?re asking yourself, ?With all the millions of people who vote in any given election, does my vote really count?? Or perhaps you feel like you can?t really make a difference, so why bother? The truth is that your vote does count and you do make a difference every time you vote! Your vote holds your local and national leaders responsible for the decisions they make. Your vote sends a message about the issues you think are important. Your vote affirms our rights as free citizens to elect our government and take part in democracy. Without voting, there could be no democracy.

Maybe you know other people who choose not to vote because they feel like what goes on in the government doesn?t affect them. The truth is, it does?in many ways. Elected officials make all sorts of decisions that can directly affect your life. The leaders you elect will decide whether to raise or lower taxes, make economic policies that could affect your job or change laws that could affect your lifestyle etc etc There are also local elections, which can have an even more immediate and personal effect on you, your lifestyle and your community.

The reason to vote cannot be over stated. One man one vote says a lot. It puts each person on equal footing. A vote from a rich person has the same power as a poor person. Young people has the same right to be heard as their elders. Voting gives you the right and voice, to have the say, who will be the next Prime Minister or Chief Minister. It is the single most effective way to make your voice be heard. By not voting, you give away your right to influence the government overall. In some cases now a days people hesitate to vote. They say that their vote won?t be that important anymore. They wait in long queues hoping that their candidate will be elected. But people think that it was all useless and a waste of time.

If the right to vote no longer existed, the country would no longer survive as a democratic nation, but completely totalitarian. When a person does not vote, that one individual citizen does not participate with the electoral process, as with any other voter, what would happen if no one voted. Our democracy would end. Choose your candidate wisely. There are many issues to consider when casting your vote. So every vote has significance. Several elections have been decided by a single vote. So it is therefore important to vote to have your say about what happens to you and to the people in the nation. I think it’s important to vote because of the great amount of power politicians have – particularly their control on the society and our lifestyle.                     

A popular saying designed to coax people to the polling places has always been, “If you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain.” It’s like,”Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” We?re fortunate to enjoy free elections and the right to vote for the candidates of our choice. That?s a privilege you won?t find in just any country.  Like in Iraq, when Saddam Hussein was alive, the Iraqi press reported that Saddam Hussein had been re-elected president with 100% of the vote. Can you imagine that? One hundred percent of the vote! You know, even I might be elected president if my name were the only one on the ballot. But that’s not the case in the forthcoming Assembly elections-there are many candidates and you have the choice to pick and elect the best and reliable candidate.

The privilege of choosing the men and women who will lead our cities, our districts, our state, and our country is one of the extraordinary freedoms we enjoy in India-a freedom that has come to us with a huge price tag attached. Sadly, there?s a tendency at times to stay home on voting day and hope the votes of others will achieve the results we desire.  Let?s not allow the price paid by so many to have been paid in vain. Let?s go to the polls and vote! Remember the day and time- 5 May 2013, 7am -5pm.

Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois