[caption id="attachment_21811" align="alignleft" width="336"]Dr Somya Sharma Dr Somya Sharma[/caption]

When the polls open on Election Day, every citizen over the age of 18 will be able to cast ?vote. It is a right we take for granted, one that defines our nation as a democracy. But universal suffrage ? letting everyone vote ? did not appear overnight with the ratification of our Constitution.

To vote, or not to vote? That is the question,??if one may paraphrase a renowned English writer. This is a serious question for many people as the election season approaches. It is one of those issues, I respectfully suggest, upon which good people may disagree without dissension.

Voting is ?a privilege, and a responsibility.? One can argue reasonably that voting is a privilege

under our government; to declare that it is a responsibility to go beyond what is justified. It is the equivalent of suggesting that it is a sin not to vote. There is no biblical teaching that necessitates such a conclusion. Some declare they prefer not to vote because they feel there is no candidate representing their values. This could be a logical position reflecting one?s personal conviction. Others allege: "You must

vote?at least for the lesser evil.This is a fallacious argument.Voting for a candidate with whom he or she is not comfortable A ?lesser evil? could still be an evil in the mind of a devout person! It is common in India that whenever a person say that he does not support a policy or act of the government (like the opposition of Anna Hazare and Janlokpal Bill, or the violent attack on Swami Ramdev and his supporters at the midnight of 4th of June at Ramleela Maidan), the government says that it has the consent of the governed and Indian people are forced to respect the UPA government and its representatives so of the so-called social contract. One of the most often-cited reasons people give for not voting is their sense of futility? they don't think their vote makes a difference; they claim they have no impact on government, and vice versa; they believe "special interests" run everything so their votes don't count. To those pessimists, skeptics and cynics, I say "wrong!" There are too many real-life examples where one vote has made the difference between winning and losing, between enacting a law or bond measure and rejecting it. Especially at the local level, we repeatedly see instances where a city council member, school board trustee, member of the board of supervisors ? is elected by one vote. And in 1960, one vote change in each precinct would have defeated John F. Kennedy. Clearly one vote ? your vote ? can determine the margin of victory.What groups of people are least likely to participate in election day decisions? Political pollsters and demographers indicate the traditionally lowest participation rates come from 18-35 year-olds, minorities, blue-collar workers, those who are lesser educated, renters, unemployed persons, those with the lowest income levels, and, until recently, women. Fortunately, women have about reached the same level of voting as men. And also, Most of the 41% Indians who decide to not to vote in Indian general or assembly elections are well learned, educated and aware people. They voluntarily decide not to vote and they cannot be forced to vote. Voting is certainly not a duty, it is just a right.

Yet, it is important to understand why 41% of Indians do not vote? Some people suggest that they do not vote because they do not have a good option to vote for. They neither believe in the ruling political party nor in the main opposition party. They also suggest that if a new political front with new ideas and policies and an honest conscience come in front, then it may increase the voter turnout. However, it is not true.

Voting provides a medium for citizens to support the democratic structure. If a majority of citizens chose not to vote, democracy might become a thing of the past, replaced by another form of government that might prove more elitist in nature. Registering to vote means that you believe in the democratic process and will participate in it to represent your right to] freedom of speech. Finally, taking time to vote reflects pride in your nation and its government. The country becomes a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world who will be watching. Let everyone know that you care enough about your homeland and its leaders to have a say in the election's outcome. Never surrender your right to speak your mind via the vote on election day.

Mahatma Gandhi strongly criticized the idea of majority rule and stated, ?It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority.?Voting in a local, state, or national election is an exciting

opportunity provided by democratic nations to their citizens. But some of us don't value that option when we fail to exercise our right to vote. Perhaps living in a third world nation where voting rights do not exist might change our minds. Election is too serious and?precious a event , to be left entirely in the hands of political parties n politicians. Now the time has come, for we common people , to get involved in the democratic process of the nation,for that surely come out and vote. If Indian middle class wants them to b taken seriously, then they will have to ? vote. Otherwise they should not crib for wrongs of our?society and the?environment?, we live in.

Showing up at the poll on voting day sets a good example to others. Remember, your children observe all that you do and will learn from your? example, right or wrong as it may be. Civic awareness is an important part of their training and one of the early steps on the road to maturity. Discuss the candidates with your family and make a point of mentioning your vote,

or wearing the pin distributed at many polls that reads "I voted today." Go ahead and avail your right .

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