Voting is progress,’ says RJ Michelle

Put two young spirited celebrities together with an articulate MP and discuss elections and you are going to get a good conversation. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Nicole Faria, Michelle Patrao and I had a half hour chat on May 2nd, webcast at rajeev.in.

On May 2nd, Thursday evening, Citizen Matters editor Subramaniam Vincent anchored a video webcast conversation at Radio Indigo’s offices in Koramangala. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP was responding to questions collected over the day via his website and twitter on Bangalore, elections, and the future. Also present were Nicole Faria, the Bangalore girl who won Miss Earth 2010, and the popular and award-winning Radio Indigo RJ Michell Patrao. As part of his series Bengaluru on poll mode, Subramaniam Vincent presents a first-hand account of the discusison.

With both girls in their early twenties, and Chandrasekhar being the politican, I asked them several questions on the issues that worry Bengaluru much today as well on voting itself.

There is much talk about the power of youth in the city that was displayed during the support for Justice Santosh Hegde a few years ago, as well as during Anna Hazare’s campaign for a Lokpal bill in New Delhi. Yet, the question has always lingered on whether the youth will show up in large numbers to vote on the Sunday, May 5th.

I asked Michelle and Nicole some hard questions on why they made up their mind to vote. Nicole was direct. “There are certainly better choices nowadays”, she said comparing to the past when middle and high income people in the country would never go to the polls. “I hear an IIM-Bangalore professor is running”, she pointed out. Clearly for her, there was no question of not voting.

“What is the point of all the whining about politics. I say let’s go out and vote, and whine after that!”, she snapped and ended with a definitive “Voting is progress itself, we cannot progress wtihout voting”.

MP Chandrasekhar has been running a campaign on his website for the past two weeks asking Bangaloreans to go out and vote, and vote for a candidate who will work for bringing better governance to the city in every major area from water to transport to management of public land. He said voters must engage candidates in their constituency. “It will be an instinctive choice”, he said about the final call voters will make on May 5th.

The conversation also went into whether PILs and running to the High Court are likely going to be a fix for Bangalore to women’s safety and how to make garbage segregation an accepted practice all across the city. “It is not easy to go from lumping all the garbage at home into one bag to splitting it three ways”, admitted Nicole, and added that there is no other way, every home had to do it.

What gives me hope is the list of questions we received for the videocast. It was impossible to take on all these questions in one half hour conversation, but the sheer breadth of these questions indicate how different Bangalore’s new voters are. Very thoughtful questions and clearly indicative that the country has turned a corner in political engagement, despite all the frustration and cynicism over poltiics.

“I have seen a big change from five years ago and now”, said Chandrasekhar, on young people engaging with politics and asking questions. He added that voting was no longer some romantic democratic duty. Citizens were asking nuanced questions about the hard issues and he only hoped the political executive that gets elected will commit to a serious reform process for the city.

Here is a quick snapshop of questions that had come in before the webcast had begun.

  1. Why has rain water harvesting not been taken up more seriously given the severe water shortage?
  2. What can we do to achieve self-reliance in water supply?
  3. What is the most proficient way of dealing with waste?
  4. How to make Governance more participative?
  5. If Public Transport is upped by 25%, will it suffice for our City?
  6. What can be done to speed up the process between someone filing a complaint and the police carrying out its investigation?
  7. What should be done to ensure Lokpal is well-implemented in our city and state as and when Parliament passes the Bill?
  8. What should be done to better sensitise the police and the society?
  9. Don’t we need Campaign finance reform which will help eradicate corruption?
  10. Reports suggest half of Bangalore may have to be evacuated in 10 years due to infrastructural incapacities. What should be done?
  11. Is it time to start looking at segregation and recycling of waste? Convert waste into energy?
  12. Can door-to-door waste collection be made remunerative?
  13. Shouldn’t there be a website with ATRs as follow up to complaints addressed to civic agencies and/or Police?
  14. How does the municipality issue licenses for water and/or power supply?
  15. What should be done to address job shortage?
  16. What should Bangalore’s stand be on Sarabjit Singh?
  17. How should citizens get the chance to oversee decisions that corporators take?
  18. If no one addresses our issues, is it okay if we don’t vote?
  19. Shouldn’t MLA’s cut across political lines to make Bangalore a better place to live in?
  20. How important is it for businesses to thrive for Bangalore to progress?
  21. Should we consider more projects in Bangalore as PPP and/or BOOT?
  22. We women are afraid to go around in Bangalore because of incidents in other citiesand lack of certain facilities in our city. What will be done to make us feel safer?
  23. Do independents without monetary power and prominent party backing have a realistic chance of winning ever?
  24. Currently BBMP spends less than 0.2 paise (out of ₹ 1) on health and education. How can human resources develop?
  25. Are we encroaching on lakes and land too much?
  26. What should be done to encourage greater participation by women in governance? Especially how does one differentiate between token empowerment (proxy seats for husbands) and actual one?
  27. There is no connection between people and their representatives. What should the MLAs do to improve engagement with voters?
  28. How can we stop the flow of black money when builders still expect some part of payment towards houses purchased to come in black and not white?

I concluded the show with the hope that the story I wanted Citizen Matters to report on Monday was high turnout in Bangalore.

To read the part-3 of the series Bengaluru on poll-mode, click here.

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