Joy of my first vote

April 17 it was ! I had been to Kerala on a 5 day 'vacation' and was just back that day in Bengaluru , where I had finally enrolled myself into the voters list and got my voter's id..

I use the word 'finally' with two intentions - first, though I had followed politics in India for close to 25 years now, I had never added myself to the voters list till now or had the ID, leave alone actually exercising that right. I was at IIT Chennai in 1998 and 99 and 19/20 yrs old when the General elections were held, but some how there was no idea that I could register as a voter in Chennai - even if I had, South Chennai perhaps did not even field a BJP candidate.Registering in Kerala would not have helped my cause much either as most likely the elections would have been held on a working day for me at IITM and I would not have traveled all the way to Kerala to potentially vote for a party that would not even fetch 10% of the vote share.

I left India for higher studies in 2001 and was back in 2008, so naturally did not have a chance in 2004. I do remember the day though, when in the US time morning after the India time morning when results were announced, I had woken up, and at the earliest checked the result, only to be semi-shocked to see that NDA did not make it a second time. Unlike those who believe that "India Shining" campaign was what caused a surprise defeat for NDA, I have always attributed two main factors - one, that Vajpayee had started becoming increasingly ill, and had started giving out the impression that he wasn't fully in control and yet BJP did not specify a clear succession plan. Two, a complacency that had crept in BJP rank and file. While the 2004 "coldness" among BJP volunteers were more due to "we will anyway win" false feeling, the 2009 was about "we are not going to make it" - and that was exactly what I had thought too and hence not opted for a voter id in 2009, even though I was very much in India. I was in Chennai, and BJP did not even have an alliance.. it had given up even before the actual polls (please read my initial posts under the label GE2014 for a more detailed view on this)

The second sense that I use the word "finally" is related to my efforts to secure a voter ID in Bengaluru, where I have been staying since 2012 . In 2013, there were the Karnataka state elections, and there was a campaign at my work place to apply for voter id and/or registration of the name. The application has to be filled and submitted online, the print out along with proof of residence (like a rental agreement) had to be put in a drop box in office - quite an easy process. In fact my intention to apply was more keeping in mind the 2014 general elections as I may not have anyway voted in the 2013 Karnataka assembly elections even if I had received my ID. However my application from March of 2013 did not come through even after a year. The online status simply showed "field verification completed".

I called up the CEO office and I was told that if it didn't come through in a few months, it ain't gonna come through and go and apply in the local ward office. Mar 16 or so was the last date, and I think I submitted an application around Mar 10 or so.. and on April 5, I had the card collected from the same ward office. Some times all the "online stuff" aren't quite as useful in India as of yet as it turned out in this case of my applying for the voter ID and name registration. Indeed, I did check online though that my name has been added to the list, which it was, and I also got the info of my polling booth and so on.

And finally, Apr 17, I voted for the first time in my life.. and that was for BJP, or shall I say Narendra Modi.. or perhaps I should say, for "India First". To me at least in the current scenario, all the three are the same.