Tuesday, January 19, 2010

City’s Gen X lost on civic elections

City’s Gen X lost on civic elections
Kaushik Chakravarthy, Bangalore, Jan 18, DHNS:

February 21 is not a date that has the City’s large young Generation X population rolling with excitement. The scheduled date for the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) elections has hardly registered with the same young turks whose enthusiasm during last year’s Lok Sabha elections is in stark contrast to their political apathy this time.

A reality check by Deccan Herald ahead of next month’s elections to the local body at some of the City’s hot spots, where the young and the trendy hang out, elicited responses ranging from “Is it about something that happens at midnight?” to “What is BBMP?”

Evidently, the youth do not seem to have engaged with the BBMP elections even when civic issues should directly touch them.

Pritvi Reddy, entrepreneur and co-founder of ‘Smartvote’, an awareness initiative, says the youth are more influenced by trends than reason. “Our websites used to register about 1,000 hits a day in the run up to the general elections. But for the BBMP polls, we have attracted only about a 100 hits over the past month,” he says.

Citing the example of an octogenarian lady, Pritvi believes that the civic polls are actually bringing the real voters out in the open. “Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) are the real voters unlike the young, who got involved during the general elections simply because politics was the flavour of the season,” he says with a hint of sarcasm.

Both ‘Smartvote’ and Janaagraha of “Jaago Re” fame have made sustained efforts to take their programmes to the City’s campuses.

But representatives of both organisations say that RWAs and the middle-aged have responded in a big way as they have a greater understanding of the neighbourhood and the importance of civic amenities.

Political science professor Muzaffar Assadi says that although local body elections have more significance, the young are driven by themes. “There was a euphoria around the LS polls and the mantra of change was in the air. But the BBMP election is more about local issues,” he says.

Vandana Krishnan, a Communications Associate at Janaagraha, says that her organisation’s focus has shifted to the RWAs. “RWAs are more aware of the functionalities, jurisdiction and scope of the BBMP elections,” she says. However, Vandana warns it is too early to dismiss youth participation in the poll or activities related to it.

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