The perception that politics is for those who aren’t able to do anything else is fast changing in the ongoing process to civic elections, at least in Jammu. The voters, especially the younger ones, are no more willing to buy the argument that the politics is the exclusive domain of illiterate, rowdy elements and even criminals. The reason may be larger exposure to social media and the lack of governance they have been witnessing from their birth.
Unlike elections to Legislative Assembly or the Lok Sabha, the civic polls are limited to a specific segment of population where everyone knows everyone. The young people have grown watching how some urchins and non-entities, of course with some honourable exceptions, have grown rich overnight and assumed the new found status in the elite. They have also seen how funds earmarked for their vicinities and utility services next door have fallen prey to greed and corruption. They have also watched in desperation the officio-politician nexus in usurping the funds earmarked for welfare and amenities, which is why a subtle change is discernible in general public mood.
Those who used to give a slip to polling booths have started rethinking about their decision, which generally backfires in the form of choked drains, ill-kempt interior lanes, garbage littered all over due to their escapism. They used to shy away from walking up to the booths. Most of them would not show up to vote in large numbers despite calls and appeals. The affluent and educated used to while away for the day, making it a day to enjoy. Only marginalised segments used to flock to booths, some in pursuance of emotive appeals and many in pursuit of realising promises. The educated, the affluent, the professional and every segment of society seem to have decided not to dis-empower themselves by their disdain. They do realise now the imperative of having the best amongst them to take care of their environs. They can differentiate between a doer and a wrong-doer.
This is a pragmatic shift, which promises a hope and change. The elite, the educated and the emancipated understands that sitting on the fence is like giving a license to illiterate and rowdy elements to subjugate them for five years.
Will this mind-shift make any difference in the ongoing polls to Jammu Municipal Corporation, a civic body responsible for transforming the City of Temples a model city, given the fact that it is being thronged by over ten million people annually from all over the country and even abroad to pay obeisance at the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi? For realising this dream and to keep the environs clean and healthy, the responsibility cannot be given to those who lack vision-to those who join the fray with a mission of minting the money, with a hope to transform themselves economically rather than meeting the urges and aspirations of the locality they intend to represent in the city’s top civic body.
In the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, a serious exercise has begun in nook and corner of the city to churn the candidates, who have filed their nominations for election to the Corporation. The sagacious voters have a set of choice before them. They have started discussing the candidates in the social media, on the walking tracks, in street corners and even in homes. In some of such interactions, the prospective voters have started scanning the academic and economic status of their candidates, track record of their social interactions and their concern for the community welfare. They are burdened with unsolicited callers from all hues from dawn to dusk and a marked difference is visible how they are tackling them. The present day voter cannot pretend ignorance or conceal likes and dislikes. In these interactions, the callers are getting a fairy good idea about the response and mood of the voters. This has sent many of the contestants into tizzy. The ideological and emotive appeals are proving ineffective, as the voters are making their callers and contestants aware that the civic elections have nothing to do with the destiny of the nation. These are for community good. These are for ensuring much needed amenities in their local areas.
With this realization dawning fast, will the fence sitters give a new impetus to elections by making choice between literate and illiterate, between doers and wrong doers, between conscience keepers and exploiters and so on. They have started realizing the pressing need for sound, robust and stable governance at the grass roots level.