It's been four years since I've updated my blog. Four eventful years on the personal front with a birth, a death, moves and multiple changes in plans for the future. I thought of starting a new blog, but since I'm still grappling with fundamentally similar issues and concerns, decided to continue here. So here's to phase 2 of slipping and sliding, hopefully featuring better, more improved posts!
On the professional / social front, I have been working in Bangalore for the past 2 years with multiple organizations with the goal of building a strong network to campaign for health rights. I also continue to work with Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (SKMS) in Sitapur dt., UP from a distance, augmented by occasional visits.
I am restarting my blog on the eve of assembly elections in Karnataka. I was away for most of April, so missed a lot of the campaigning and politicking. Yet, one can't miss it completely, so here are some questions and observations:
- What does one do with one's vote and does it matter? Some communities facing dire situations and fed up with the status quo have decided to boycott the elections. The Aam Aadmi party suggests we vote for 'none of the above'. In a community meeting I attended recently, attendees were advised that they could enter the voting booth and not press any button. But they would still get their finger marked and need not fear any backlash from the goondas etc. A woman stood up and replied that a group from her slum had gone to visit their MLA with some urgent requests – he responded asking why he should help them when no one in their area voted for him. In the marketplace of electoral politics, principled stands have to be chosen by a significant number of people to have any chance of being taken seriously.
- Are the so-called alternative parties and candidates serious enough about winning? Observing some of these candidates, I am reminded of an incident from about 4 years ago. In the last Lok Sabha elections, a coalition of 'progressive' groups decided to field a few candidates across the country. One of those candidates' constituency included parts of Sitapur district. He came to an SKMS meeting to canvass for votes, with an insoucant manner and a bewildering conviction in his 'rightness'. The sangathan saathis listened patiently to his speech and asked him some insightful questions, which he could not answer satisfactorily. For example, for the questions – 'How are you different from any other candidate who comes and promises everything under the sun? How can we be sure that you will remain honest once you come to power?' - he had no answer beyond 'I work for so-and-so, the greatest organization blah-blah-blah and have an amazing man as my guru'! Here, in Bangalore, one candidate from a party claiming to be different visited our area for the first time 2 days ago. Hardly an improvement over the status quo!
- Have advocacy groups, NGOs etc. had any effect during the campaign phase? From what I can see, very little. Many have not worked on a consistent basis and are focusing on awareness sessions, petitions, press meets etc. Others have decided to organize rallies and other shows of strength after the new government takes over – after all, the major parties are very similar. So why not use resources wisely and focus on the party in power?!
Well, seems that the elections are inspiring enough to resume blogging! Wish me luck in the coming days and months as I try to articulate the challenges, insights, frustrations and hope in my current endeavours.