Saturday, April 25, 2009


The Times of India (TOI) - Pune edition carried a front page article on April 24th (the day after Pune voted for the Lok Sabha elections) with the following title :

At 40.6%, poorest show in Pune.

..........The Pune Lok Sabha constituency witnessed a paltry turnout of 40.6% on Thursday - the lowest ever in the history of the 15 LS Polls held in the city since 1952. More than 10 lakh out of the 18 lakh electorate in the constituency did not exercise their constitutional right to vote.

My heart sank. Pune has been known as the "Oxford Of the East". Home to the famous Pune University and educational institutions like Symbiosis that attract students from all over India, Pune has always prided itself on its educated middle classes. It is also the cultural capital of Maharashtra. Its citizens are known for being socially active and taking up cudgels and protesting vociferously when things go wrong in the city.

What happened then ? Why this terrible apathy when the country really needs its citizens to go out and make a noise and tell the politicians that enough is enough. After 26/11, it seemed for a while that India had awoken.

Going in to vote in the morning it was obvious something like this was bound to happen. I had to wait 1 minute to cast my vote. A relative who went in later in the afternoon reported the same wait time. There was no flood - only a trickle.

Think for a moment all the excuses one can give for not having voted that day : a holiday to relax, IPL on television, the sweltering heat, messed up voter lists, new voting booths with not many people knowing about it, an "I could not care less" attitude etc. etc. Ironically our domestic help (maid-servant) who came in to work after having worked for 4 hours in various homes and was going to return home walking in the sweltering 40 degrees C heat, said to me enthusiastically that she was going to vote after going home !!!!

The next day , TOI carried another article on Page 2 titled "Urban apathy cause of low turnout". The article went on to say "It was an issueless election".

Issueless ? Issueless ? Surely not everything is hunky-dory in India right now.

Isn't massive corruption an issue ? Isn't rampant religious conversion in the North East an issue ? Isn't terrorism - that has resulted in so many attacks on Indian soil in the last 4 years - an issue ? Isn't massive poverty an issue any more ? Isn't pseudo-secularism that slams anything and anybody who uses the word "Hindu" as being communal an issue ?

Or perhaps the public wasn't made aware. Maybe they've heard political parties talk about stuff so often only to forget it right after the elections that the whole exercise has become a sham. Maybe thats why we were - as AOL volunteers - asked to go out and campaign hard to get people to vote. Many of us did - as did other NGO's and student bodies. Obviously it wasn't enough for Pune to wake up.

Hope folks in places where Phase III and Phase IV polling is yet to be done are doing all they can to inspire a large voter turnout.

The Bhagavad Gita asks us to do our duty and not focus on the result. It also asks us not to be attached to inaction. Thats tells me we should not be discouraged by the above result and continue to work hard on multiple fronts.

One - to bring the message of peace and spirituality to people. Only an aware and awake mind will know what is happening and decide to take action. And this awareness can only come from spiritual practices. Two - to keep telling people to come out and use that most precious gift that democracy gives us - OUR VOTE .

As Guruji said in Mumbai after 26/11 - there is a need for becoming a Sant-Sipahi for the sake of our nation.

Please read Bawa's article on why voting is critical. A picture of Guruji casting his vote.

The journey has only just begun.

Jai Guru Dev.

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