The elections for the Municipal Corporation are only a few days away. The conscientious citizen in me went to the `Meet your (potential) Corporator’ session organised by the local Vikas Mandal. I went with the objective of figuring out who to vote for… or at least, who not to vote for.
The session was not very well-attended – either by citizens or contestants. If it were perhaps I would have been better informed now on who to give my vote to. Nevertheless, here is what I learnt:
- This time, in Pune, wards have been grouped into `panels’ (called `prabhag’ in Marathi). There are four groups/categories (gats) in each panel. Each party fields four candidates – one in each group.
- Each voter casts a vote for EACH GROUP. So a voting is complete ONLY when you have cast FOUR votes. Else it is invalid.
- At the polling booth there will be multiple Electronic Voting Machines (EVM’s). As many as are required to contain the entire list of all candidates for each group. Each group is color coded – white, pink/red, yellow and blue. So pick one person in each of these color coded blocks
- To choose a candidate, press the button next to the persons name and electoral symbol. When you have pressed four buttons (one in each block) a buzzer will sound indicating all four presses have been registered and your vote is done.
- The order in which you go through the blocks picking your choice is not important. Any order is fine. Whenever you are done with the fourth, the buzzer will sound
- It is not necessary to choose candidates from the same party across groups. You can vote one from say, BJP, other from Congress, third from NCP and so on.
- Each group list will have a NOTA (None of the Above) button at the very end. You may choose this in one or all of the groups. However, while that captures your disgruntlement, it is a sub-optimal choice. This, of course, is my opinion and you are entitled to feel otherwise!
- There is much confusion around polling booths and who is allocated where. You may end up having to go to multiple booths to figure out where you have to vote. If you are lucky, you will get a slip from one of the parties beforehand identifying it for you else you will need to approach one of the help tables that parties will likely set up on election day. So, budget some time for this activity
- I got no clear answers to questions on how the four elected candidates (the new Corporators from each zone) will work together post-elections. Will responsibilities be geographically defined? What is the ward to group mapping? Is this mapping already done? How will budget-allocagtion and management happen? What about accountability? My understanding is, no one has clarity on these issues yet.
Anyone who can bring more information to the table please do. Also, please correct anything that I have mis-understood and/or communicated incorrectly in the list above
A few observations on the meeting itself:
- There were very few citizens present. Many of those present seemed to be there just to express discontent with the whole electoral process and insist that NOTA was the only option worth considering
- Only one candidate turned up. That too rather late. Perhaps this consitutency is not important enough to the parties or perhaps they had already made an assessment of numbers and attitude and found more worthwhile meeting spots. After all there are hardly any days left to D Day
- Even the one candidate who did come did not have a clear plan of action, other than the general `in-the-air’ promises. If he did have a vision, I was unable to comprehend it from what he spoke
- While the behaviour of the candidates (in terms of not turning up) was poor, the citizens too were a little high-handed in their language and attitude towards the party representatives. Enjoying the `power’ of their vote perhaps?? But, finally, that is simply counter-productive
I hear there are some wards where such meetings have been very useful. In another ward a friend attended and came away with a very good experience. Candidates from all contesting parties were present, they addressed the citizen charter of demands clearly and within the time – frame given. We wondered why there was so much difference between our experiences and here are some points that I came away with:
- Ensure the event has been well-promoted among citizens and much in advance
- Have a clear agenda circulated before hand. Each candidate in the meeting was given five minutes to go over the citizens charter of demands and given an opportunity to speak followed by Q&A
- Have some ground rules clearly explained before the meeting begins… e.g. in this meeting they had clarified that no English was to be used, Hindi would be used for all verbal communication. One of the other rules they had was no arguments, no criticism of any candidate or party. Listen and clarify. Not a forum to keep pushing till you get all your answers.
In the interest of getting the most out of these initiatives still on the anvil it might be useful to reflect on these.
Wishing all of us a peaceful election process and a Municipal Corporator(s) we deserve :p