Justice Hegde endorses Loksatta candidate Ashwin Mahesh

The dates may not yet be set for the MLC elections, but campaigning has heated up. Loksatta candidate Ashwin Mahesh is out urging graduates to register.

Karnataka Unit of Loksatta party organised a voters’ registration campaign for the Bangalore Graduates’ Constituency Elections (BGCE) on 12 April, 2012. Ashwin Mahesh is the Lok Satta candidate for the MLC seat.

The event was called "Follow the Justice, Justice will follow" and was to help the citizens to register as a graduate voter.

Activists and citizens along with Ashwin Mahesh and Justice Hegde. Pic: Abhishek Angad

Around 100 citizens turned up for this event at the Shanti Nagar Bus-stand premises including Retired Justice Santosh Hegde and Ashwin Mahesh for the BGCE 2012. Both of them registered themselves with the Regional Commissioner office present in the bus stand premises.

Endorsing Ashwin’s candidature, Justice Santosh Hegde urged the people register and vote in the election. He said, "I have known Ashwin Mahesh for a few years now and I can vouch for his integrity, sincerity for public service, vision for Bangalore and his involvement with grass-root work."

Ashwin Mahesh, a social technologist and part of India Against Corruption has many accolades to his name for urban development. He feels that development in any country is the sum and substance of civic development, citizenship and politics, but politics is one area avoided for a long time by citizens. He also feels that active participation of the citizens is required for a better governance and cites this as one of the main reasons for his public campaign.

"I think there’s a real opportunity for this kind of politics. I would like to push the political system to empower people already active in taking up social issues, so that they can work better out of their own initiatives without becoming dependent on Government,"Mahesh said.

Will the campaign make a difference?

The Bangalore Graduates’ constituency has its own voter rolls, different from the state assembly/parliamentary and municipal rolls. Only those registered in this particular roll can vote for a candidate. Currently, there are around 90,000 registered voters according to the Election Commission data given to Mahesh. This number is up from 78,000 in Novemeber, 2011.

But the actual number of eligible graduates for the upcoming election is estimated to be around 20 lakhs. Previously D M Shivakumar, Tahsildar (Administration) at the Regional Commissioner’s Office had said to Citizen Matters, that 70,000 voters had registered in the voter’s list. Media reports say that only about 20,000 of them had actually voted.

Given the massive voter base left out from this roll, Mahesh and Lok Satta are taking a systematic approach to expand the voter base before the election. The election is supposed to be held around June this year. No dates have been set so far.

Mahesh has filed a Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of Karnataka asking the court to direct the Election Commission to redress the issue od voter registration. He has argued that practical implementation of the voter registration scheme for the graduates constituency election has never been done. The petition also contends that the procedures being currently used by the election commission to fill up this role are in effect unconstitutional. He has pointed out that the five-week window fixed for acceptance of voter applications is arbitrary.

In his petition, Mahesh asked the court to direct the Election Commision  to simplify the registration process to promote enrollment. He has pointed out that no steps had been taken by the Election Commission. Citizen Matters has learned that the Election Commission did not disagree with Mahesh’s contentions and asked the court for time to get back with a plan. The next hearing is on April 17th.

Despite low registrations Mahesh seems to be optimistic about the election and says, "We will win."

City majors endorse Ashwin Mahesh

Mahesh’s campaign has also picked up steam with a number of noted Bangaloreans issuing endorsements. Ace cricketer Anil Kumble, Former Infosys CFO, Mohandas Pai, M S Mukanda of Citizen Actions Forum (CAF), Anita Reddy of Association for Voluntary Action and Services (AVAS), Katyayani Chamraj of CIVIC, Ruth Manorama of National Alliance of Women (NAWO), actor director Arvind Ramesh amongst others have endorsed Mahesh.

The endorsements seems to have made a difference to the voters. Ajit Phadnis, who is part of IAC and a supporter of Ashwin Mahesh, feels strongly about Justice Hegde’s endorsement, "Justice Hegde has taught us a lesson by putting the strength of his moral force and decades of hard earned reputation."

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