Munshi Ram (56), dressed in white kurta-pyjama and a shiny blue turban, sports a broad yellow sash across his chest with “main hun voting tau” (I am a voting tau).
Along with a stick and a moustache that measures over a foot end to end, he makes for a unusual sight at Cyber City in Gurgaon. Beside him is Bhim Sen (43), dressed similarly.
The voting tau (uncle) has been brought in for the first time to encourage people, especially the youth, to vote in the Lok Sabha polls.
R S Sangwan, DPRO (Gurgaon), said, “Traffic Taus were introduced about five months ago in Gurgaon to encourage people to drive safely. Gurgaon Deputy Commissioner Shekhar Vidyarthi wanted to use the idea to increase voter turnout.
Sangwan said Vidyarthi asked him to provide actors for the scheme. “Incidentally, four of our employees, who work for the Information and Public Relations office in Gurgaon, are theatre actors too. They decided to become voting taus, and that too, without remuneration,” Sangwan said.
Voting taus have been going around Gurgaon for the past 10 days. Every day, Ram and Sen, accompanied by fellow actors Rajbeer Singh (52) and Ishwar Singh (53), begin their day around 11 am and conclude at 6 pm after visiting around 40 locations.
According to Ram, Rajbeer and Ishwar Singh are dressed casually. “They set the mood for our act. In urban areas, we mostly attract a young male crowd. The educated people give us vague answers when we ask them why they don’t vote,” Ram said.
The voting taus have so far visited a number of colleges. The response, they said, has been very positive among first-time voters. Gurgaon has 18.45 lakh registered voters, of which 9.85 lakh are male. According to Sangwan, some urban pockets in Gurgaon witnessed voter turnouts of less than 10 per cent during the last Lok Sabha polls.
“Today, we went into Sector 22 in a minibus. A song, “aai election ki bahar…”, was blaring from our vehicle. An old woman started dancing to the tune and this prompted her husband to joke that she should also join the voting taus. We did a good play there and ended up entertaining a huge crowd,” Sen said.