In just about ten days, it will be my turn to cast my ballot in the current elections in India. I have very ambivalent feelings on whether I should even bother. I know it is considered the duty of every right-minded citizen of a country to do his civic duty come elecion day, and go exercise his/her franchise. Here are the reasons for my ambivalence.
I don't really relish the idea of the mantle of PM passing to any of the realistic candidates for that position, least of all the one considered the front runner. This is a man who is almost universally believed to have deliberately turned the other way and ordered the police forces under his command as CM of his state to ignore and do nothing to stop communalist violence that resulted in death of a large number of Muslims. His latest rants against the ruling Congress party give an indication of how sensitive his administration will be to the need for universal design or barrier-free environments. According to a report in the New Indian Express (April 10th), he has referred to a former wheel-chair bound CM as an `apahij' (meaning cripple) going on to say `he is in a wheelchair..', thereby indicating that such a politician could not be effective. That same report goes on to his comparing the Congress Party leadership to a Bollywood movie wherein the family introduces a beautiful daughter at the time of finalising a marriage proposal and later switches sisters by introducing the one with a disability for the marriage ceremony. This font-runner further goes on to say The country does not want a deaf and handicapped government controlled at the centre. How low can people's insensitivity dip? And this is the man tipped to be our future PM!
The Congress candidate for PM has shown time and again that he is very adept at putting his entire foot in his mouth with his questionable oratory `skills'. The last person in this essentially three-horse race won a local election in Delhi, much to the pleased surprise of many, only to disappoint the hopeful potential future supporters of his party by acting overly hastily and consequently stepping down from his fledgeling career as Delhi CM. His party (called AAP, born just a few months ago) on the other hand has put up a manifesto which explicitly puts down its commitment to the betterment of the rights and lives of our women, as well as to the empowerment of PWD. Unfortunately, AAP is too young a party to hope to make any significant headway on its own this time around.
Finally, my experience of trying to vote last time around, and all the lack of accessibility at the polling booths, does not give me much courage to hope for any improvement in the infra-structural facilities, so my POA is to ask my wife to check out the scene, and then go myself to vote, only if she reports favourably on the state of (in)accessibility of the booth. On the positive side, I will start working soon after the elections, to get the local powers that be to clean up their act. (A disability activist friend of mine, Dr. Satendra Singh, has ben tirelessly hounding the Chief Election Commisioner in Delhi to so clean up their act, and still only reports partial success, with things staying much the same in many places!) I shall strive with like-minded friends, to start this programme right away and hope to have things in place in time for the next elections!