Of more than 90 lakh people in the city, of which at least 15 lakh were graduates, only 60,000-odd people registered to vote in the graduate elections in 2006 (graduate elections are held in every six years; the last one was in 2006). Of these 60,000, only 20,000 actually voted. Of the votes polled, 11, 270 went to BJP’s Ramachandra Gowda who is the current MLC. Gowda, who has been representing the Bangalore graduate constituency (only graduates can vote in an election to a graduate constituency) for the last 24 years, is about to complete his fourth six-year term as MLC (Member of the Legislative Council).
Karnataka is one of seven states that have the upper as well as the lower houses the legislative assembly and the legislative council. Of the 75 members in the legislative council, 25 are elected from MLAs, seven from graduates, seven from teachers and 25 from local bodies while 11 are nominated from various fields such as arts, theatre, journalism, cinema and education by the government. According to an RTI application filed by Anand Yadwad, a volunteer with India Against Corruption (IAC), as of November 5, 2011, Bangalore city had 17,406 new registered voters, 901 in Bangalore city, 11,642 in BBMP area, 2,074 in Bangalore Rural and 2,789 in Ramanagara districts, compared with an estimated 22 lakh graduates.
There were only 61,746 registered voters in the entire Bangalore constituency. Meenakshi Bharat, west zone coordinator, Citizen Action Forum, said nobody seemed to know or care about graduate elections. “This seems like a secret election. Nobody talks about it. Only about 1% of people in the constituency even know about graduate elections,” said Srinivas Allavilli of Saaku Corruption, a civil society movement. “Considering that anyone who is a graduate and is a resident of Bangalore for more than six months is eligible to vote, more people should be registering. But this is not happening,” Yadwad said.
Why nobody is voting?
The tedious process of registering is one reason. Voters from 198 wards in the city have only 80 centres in the city to register. Yadwad said “he did not register in 2006 because he did not know where or how to register”. Moreover, only a month’s time is given to people to register. “How are 22 lakh people supposed to register in a month?” asked Bharat. Nevertheless, voters have something to cheer about this year; they can register till two weeks before the elections.
In a writ petition, Ashwin Mahesh, CEO, Mapunity, who is also contesting this time, asked for more registration counters, bulk registrations (by companies and residents) welfare associations (RWAs). For instance, Yadwad said, the Electronics City Industries Association (ECIA) has more than 1 lakh eligible members, but the registration centre is in Anekal, which is 20 km away. Most people do not know that they can register at centres near their homes. RWAs as well as civil society organisations such as the Koramangala Initiative and IAC have been trying to create awareness among people.
From putting up Form 18 on websites, to listing out centres around the city where graduates can register themselves and arranging discussions on elections, organisations seem to be doing everything possible to get more people to register. This should have been done by the Election Commission (EC). Mahesh said the EC’s job is to ensure high turnout of voters and disseminating information about elections and candidates, so that people can make informed choices. In this regard, he said, the EC failed regarding graduate elections.
Courtesy: DNA India