Whitefield Rising will endorse candidates they feel are best to lead their constituency.

Karnataka Assembly Polls Want our votes listen to us Whitefield Rising tells candidatesForum Value Mall in Whitefield; By Veera.sj [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
news Election Thursday, June 08, 2017 - 15:36

As political parties in Karnataka gear up for the 2018 Assembly Election, a citizen movement in Bengaluru is simultaneously preparing to make their voices heard and votes count.

Whitefield Rising (WR) is working to ensure that only the most deserving candidate wins the Mahadevapura constituency this time. And they have a message for all candidates--if they want their votes, they better listen to citizens' issues.

"We are telling political parties, who want to stand, that, ‘Listen, we are not going to be aligned to you but we will watch your candidate. If your candidate can prove that he is genuinely the one who can lead Mahadevapura, then we will speak with our votes, and we encourage you to prove that to us between now and the elections'," Nitya Ramakrishnan, co-founder of WR, says.

They will even endorse the candidates they feel are best to lead their constituency.

"At the corporator elections, we endorsed whoever BPac endorsed and that made a significant impact and helped people win. People believe our words. When we say something, they are looking to us as credible people that are giving a stamp to a candidate," she states.

Are they rooting for any particular party? Nithya says the two major players, i.e. the BJP and the Congress, have a level playing field.

"Both of them have the ability to influence Mahadevpura right now. Each has a chance to demonstrate how they can address our issues, issues that are actually nothing extraordinary. They are pretty basic. We are not asking for the moon at all. In fact, we would have liked it if they were visionaries for progressing the potential of Mahadevpura, but we don't need that. We just need basics," she says.

There were also speculations that the group could field one of its members in the polls, but Nitya clarifies that they have no such intention.

"We are a very active, non-partisan citizen group, which basically means we will never be in politics as such. That is the most important part of our identity. If we do become part of politics, then we don't exist as a non-partisan group,” Nitya says.

"But we are still very relevant to the political conversation. And how are we relevant? We are building a very strong base of voters. There are people who have come here but have either not registered to vote, don't understand that their votes are important or may not have been successful to register to vote even after trying several times. We do have a large group of disengaged or disenfranchised voters who will now vote in the coming elections. So that will give us a large voice," she adds.

The voter turnout in the last few elections, including the 2013 Assembly Election and the 2015 BBMP Election, have seen a gradual decline.

Members of the group state that one of the biggest reasons for this is an inefficient state machinery that looks into the registration of voters.

Ajit Sequeira, a WR member, who is working on the "Million Voter Rising" campaign, says that this time they have approached the Election Commissioner and BBMP representatives to make the process organised.

Over the last few months, the group organised "voter melas" where WR members approach apartments in the area and ask people to register their applications online.

"There are no paper submissions here. The procedure was that after the submission, BBMP officials would come on an allocated day for verification, give the acknowledgement and residents would get their voter cards in the next two to three weeks," he says.

And even though, Ajit estimates, several thousand residents were successfully able to register as voters, the process still remains inconsistent.

"What we ideally want is for the system to work seamlessly, which we still don't see happening. If an individual were to go the BBMP office to register as a voter, the process is not smooth. While voting is a fundamental right, (getting registered) is still a tough job," he states.

He is however confident that this time the constituency will see a higher voter turnout, especially from the urban voter community of Whitefield, and make an impact.

"We have a vote bank, they better listen to us," he says.  

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