Friday, Oct 31, 2014

The fifth metro: Aloof in Bangalore

Observers are guessing that this election day, too, Bangalore’s elite voters took advantage of the four-day weekend and escaped the city’s heat and sat in nearby holiday destinations to gripe about how nothing would change in India.  CR Sasikumar Observers are guessing that this election day, too, Bangalore’s elite voters took advantage of the four-day weekend and escaped the city’s heat and sat in nearby holiday destinations to gripe about how nothing would change in India. CR Sasikumar
Written by Saritha Rai | Posted: April 21, 2014 12:53 am | Updated: April 21, 2014 8:53 am

The low turnout, despite the striking array of candidates, reveals a disengaged electorate.

For over two decades, Bangalore’s IT industry leaders have built a compelling story entirely by themselves. Faced with the challenge of operating out of an infrastructure-starved city, they managed to problem solve their way and make both Bangalore and its IT industry globally recognised brands. So when two prominent IT industry executives entered the Lok Sabha contest, saying they would bring the same problem-solving skills to politics, it was expected that their constituents — the urban, the educated and the upwardly mobile — would throng to the voting stations.

What happened on Thursday in India’s technology hub was a shock. While Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha constituencies averaged a 67 per cent voter turnout and voting numbers all over the country spiked impressively, the three Bangalore constituencies averaged a drab 56 per cent voting. This justifiably sent the city’s corporate leaders into a rage as they slammed the IT city’s educated voters for their apathy. “Complacence and indifference makes the most educated middle-class voter a far worse species than the most corrupt, scam-tainted politician,” said G.R. Gopinath, founder of India’s first low-cost airline, who lost the 2009 Lok Sabha election as an independent.

It seemed as though Bangalore’s voters were unmoved by the story of successful corporate stars with a clean image giving up their careers to enter public life.

Earlier in the campaign, though, the signs had been different, as the urban educated were visibly involved. In Bangalore South, where Nandan Nilekani, a co-founder and former CEO of Infosys and more recently the architect of the Indian government’s gigantic biometric unique identity project, was contesting, a massive volunteer campaign driven entirely by urban professionals gave the jitters to the campaign team of the incumbent and five-time winner from the BJP, Ananth Kumar. In neighbouring Bangalore Central, Infosys’s former CFO and board member V. Balasubramanian, 50, known as Bala, got similarly enthusiastic backing from urban middle and upper middle class citizens as an Aam Aadmi Party candidate.

In the highly urban-centric Bangalore South and Bangalore Central, educated middle and upper middle class professionals gathered in flash mobs, volunteered to go door-to-door on weekends to canvass for their favourites, danced through the downtown Brigade Road, formed human chains across busy thoroughfares in the city, paid thousands of rupees to attend fundraising dinners and generally gave every indication that the 2014 election was an election they fully owned.

The sluggish turnout on voting day was continued…

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