May 1, 2009Bangaloregood governancegovernanceIndiaMumbaipoliticsPublic Policy

Absent Indian Voter Syndrome

Urban India’s failure to vote requires greater study

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

The Acorn has previously invited the ire of the citizens of Mumbai and Bangalore by blaming their neglect of voting for the sorry state of their cities’ (and India’s) governance.

Now, you would have thought that the series of terrorist attacks over the last few years—in commuter trains, places of worship, markets and finally, on Mumbai on November 26th last year—would have sensitised the urban voters of the need for all round improvement in governance. There were also reasonably well-publicised campaigns exhorting citizens to vote.

Yet, the turnout remained in the 40-45% range: more than one in two voters, it turns out, still didn’t turn up at the polling station. (Yes, there were some misguided initiatives that might have confused voters, but still…)

It’s terrible news. It confirms the belief among party political strategists that the urban middle class is merely a self-righteous, noisy segment that is electorally irrelevant. Sure, it’ll send undergarments to lumpen troglodytes, express eloquent outrage when a film is banned, take to the streets against politicians after terrorists attack and keep the candle industry in business, but it will not make a difference in terms of the composition of state legislatures and the national parliament. Why should they care?

That’s all very well for political parties and their strategists, but it means that it is unlikely that Indian politics—and governance—will see much of a break from the past. This is unacceptable.

Those individuals and organisations who are interested in improving governance need to study the Absent Indian Voter Syndrome in greater detail. It is clear that simple explanations of why eligible voters don’t vote are insufficient to explain AIVS phenomenon. Better analysis is required.



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