In 2012, Kathuria Vasava, then 117, of Rojghat village in Narmada became the face of the Election Commission’s voter awareness campaign for the 60 votes his tribal family brought into the election. Vasava, who remained EC ambassador in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, too, died later that year. Today, the family’s 55 surviving voters are leading other villagers of Rojghat, which contributes 650 votes to Dediapada assembly constituency, in threatening to boycott the election Saturday because of the alleged neglect of their village for seven decades.
A video created by Vasava’s great-grandsons Ranchhod and Amrut is in circulation on WhatsApp in the tribal-dominated region urging voters to question candidates who are seeking their votes. “The video has my brother Amrut speaking about development lacking in our village,” said Ranchhod. “Seventy years since Independence, we are yet to see pucca roads, health facilities and drinking water supply. Parties campaign in our village every election and use our family’s goodwill, but do nothing for the village.”
Amrut, who was a first-time voter in 2012, addresses voters in the video. “We want to give a message through this video,” he says. “Whether it is the election of the taluka panchayat, district panchayat, Vidhan Sabha or Lok Sabha, Rojghat village is kept out of development… If the candidates of this election don’t have a dialogue with us about our issues and how they can be resolved, we will be forced to boycott the polls.”
Ranchhod claims that most of the 650 voters of the village are with them. “We still have pathways made of stone and gravel, our homes do not have potable drinking water. There is one primary school with only two teachers,” he said. “We are spreading our video across Dediapada, most of which suffers the same fate as Rojghat. We are hoping our appeal will awaken people.”
Kathuria Vasava, known as Kathuria Dada in Dediapada, had voted in every election starting from the very first one held in Independent India. He always ensured that the rest of his family voted in every election. “Yes, my Dada always pulled all of us along to vote,” said Ranchhod, agreeing that a boycott this time would mean going against his great-grandfather’s wishes. “It is a tough decision,” he said, “but we are youngsters now aware that politicians, for far too long, have taken our votes for granted.”