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Assam, Tripura lead by example

comment Updated: Apr 09, 2014 09:46 IST

The 2014 general election kicked off on April 7 in the country’s North-East (NE) and the region gave the country a robust and rollicking start.

On Monday, nearly 6 million people cast their votes in six constituencies in Assam and Tripura. The voter turnout was 74% in Assam and 85% in Tripura and is expected to rise once the final numbers come in.

Interestingly, the first day of the polling, April 7, has a different legacy: On this day in 1979, the rebel group United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) was formed in the state and at the height of insurgency, the outfit would exhort people — and often use violence to put pressure on them – to boycott polls.

But today, free from the threat of Ulfa, the people of Assam have shown what they firmly believe: The power of the ballot.

It is also heartening to hear what people had to say in Tripura, which is thousands of kilometres from the political hotspot of Delhi and has only two MPs, on why they voted so enthusiastically: For continued peace in the state and that it is their moral and political duty to vote.

Encouraging words indeed and many parts of India, especially the urban areas, can surely learn from them.

In an ongoing e-debate on why Indians have started voting in large numbers, London School of Economics academics Mukulika Banerjee and Sumantra Bose say that people’s motivations to vote can be divided between"instrumental reasons" and"expressive reasons".

The instrumentality of patronage, the desire to vote for politicians in order to secure development projects, these are all strong motivators.

But then, according to the two, there are more qualitative reasons too. And these become apparent when voters say things like"my vote is my weapon", or when they use their ballots to punish politicians.

But finally, they say, all this fervour could boil down to one single issue: They vote to experience one aspect of democracy that is only "apparent in India on voting day — equality".