The intent of the mock poll, organised by Citizens for Bengaluru, was to encourage people to vote in the elections and draw attention to issues that matter.

Focussed on development than on petty politics Bengaluru citizens vote in mock poll
Karnataka Elections Mock poll Sunday, May 06, 2018 - 13:41

It was an election with a strange twist – there were no candidates or political parties to vote for. Instead, the focus was on ensuring the need for sustainable development in Bengaluru.

Titled ‘Namma Mata, Namma Hita Maadari Chunavane’, this was a mock poll organised by citizen group Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) at the Puttanachetty Town Hall on Saturday morning, which saw active participation from citizens across Bengaluru.

For instance, citizens were asked to choose between having an integrated transport system or having more flyovers and elevated corridors, having more tankers and borewells or improved rainwater harvesting, and several other aspects concerning issues such as health and sanitation, housing, governance, traffic and access to public spaces.

Urban Bengaluru has become known for its voter apathy. According to News 18, only 52.83% of the urban district voted in the 2013 state elections. The stated intent of the mock poll was to change this by encouraging citizens to vote in the forthcoming elections and also to draw attention to issues that matter. Any issue related to identity politics was consciously avoided by the organisers.

Usha Gowri, a volunteer at Citizens for Bengaluru, says that the idea for the mock poll has its roots in the Steel Flyover Beda movement of 2016.

“Shortly after that, we noticed a lot of ‘beku’ and ‘beda’ movements. So in November last year, we organised a santhe at Freedom Park, where citizens were asked to write their concerns on a wall. Based on their entries, we created a manifesto sometime in December/January that we showed to several corporators and MLAs in the city. This was received well by most of them. The issues that we are addressing in today’s poll are based on this manifesto,” she told TNM.

“We didn’t want to be a ‘Beda brigade’, so we tried to find out what citizens want from the government. We want to send a strong message to all the political parties that citizens in Bengaluru are more concerned about development than petty politics,” says Bharathy Jayaprakash, who also volunteers for CfB.

According to CfB volunteer Yogesh, it took close to four weeks to plan and bring the event to fruition.

“We had to plan the event and mobilise people during this time. We contacted several resident welfare groups and citizens’ groups to help us. Various groups came with their own charters of demands and we created the poll booths accordingly. Volunteers then used Facebook Live to promote the event,” he told TNM.

Among the organisations that supported the event were: I Change My City, Citizen Action Forum, CIVIC, Bengaluru Apartment Federation, Whitefield Rising, I Change IndiraNagar, Malleswaram Swabhimana, CiFOS, ESAF and Malleswaram Social.

The initiative also received the support of notable citizens including Justice MN Venkatachaliah, actress Sruthi Hariharan, RJ Prithvi and director Saad Khan. Reception to the event appears to have been positive, with citizens lauding the organisers for raising voter awareness.

“I think it’s a good initiative. Instead of voting on the basis of caste and identity, we should vote on the basis of issues that matter, such as infrastructure and development. I travel every day from RT Nagar to my office in Electronic City. I would like to see some development to make transport easier,” says Gopalakrishna Birar, an IT professional.

“This is a very good platform for people to see how elections are conducted, especially for first-time voters like myself. Even distinguished citizens like director Saad Khan and actor Chetan were made to stand in line to vote like everyone else, which I think was good. It also increases awareness of different issues that citizens face,” says Varchaswini, a master’s student at Mount Carmel College.

Karnataka goes to the polls on May 12.

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