May 2, 2009, IBNLive
“Didn’t I tell you?” My friend was gloating. It was just a few days ago that he and I had had a discussion on whether Mandate 2009 would be different from the previous elections. This time the elections had generated a lot of interest in the public sphere. People were being bombarded with ‘Vote for change’ campaigns.
Many articles and blogs were written on the importance of voting. All sorts of celebrities and youth icons were exhorting people to vote. And the biggest factor of all was 26/11.
The gateway protest was an unparalleled event. Groups were started on social networking sites and lakhs of young voters had joined them. There were reports of record first time voter registration. There were even people who had joined mainstream politics after witnessing one of the greatest tragedies that struck Mumbai. So it seemed that finally the term ‘urban apathy’ might not apply to this election. That was my argument.
But my friend thought otherwise. He said in his typical cynical fashion, “Kajal, these are people who take up activism as a fad. Trust me lighting candles is all they will do. That atleast will guarantee them publicity. Voting will not. We are a nation of talkers. Bolne ka paisa nahin lagta (It doesn’t cost anything to talk) Look at the number of futile chat shows we have on our television channels. Has anything ever been achieved?”
“But there was an unprecedented public outcry this time. Something like the Jessica case. And so I think people will come out and vote. They are going to go out there, even if they are just going to use 49 (O),” I insisted.
My friend just smiled and said that he would talk to me on the evening of the 30th. And he was proven right. Just 43%. As he showed off his inked hand and gloated, I was left wondering if this time the elections had just become another marketing event, all hype and no substance? Was it the heat, the long weekend, or was it that people were really comfortable with the status quo? All I know is that some of us youngsters might never again believe all this talk of change.