In the housing societies of Wadala, the beaten path that political candidates take to go campaigning from door to door saw a new set of campaigners this election season: students.
As part of the Blue Ribbon movement organised by a youth organisation, college students split up into groups and approached around 200 households in one ward, asking them about the issues they faced and exhorting them to vote. The civic body elections were held last week.
For Chembur boy Venkat Hariharan, 20, who was among the foot soldiers of the campaign, the opportunity to rouse people from their politically disengaged stupor became an occasion to overcome his own.
Even as he urged people in his neighbourhood to vote, this year Hariharan himself couldn’t. “I would have liked to, but I just wasn’t aware enough about it,” said Hariharan, a student of SIES College in Sion. “Before this I didn’t even know my own corporator. For most of us, this was a whole new experience. And a good experience.”
Students researched on various local corporators, distilled information about them and presented these profiles to voters to help them choose.
“Many people said they didn’t vote because the candidates weren’t good,” said Hariharan. “But we told them that they couldn’t afford to stay isolated like this.”
For students like Hariharan, going out and getting people to vote turned inside out and became as much about understanding the process and banishing their own indifference.
“I didn’t feel connected before, I was ignorant,” said Sunitha Iyer, 21, part of a Rizvi group campaign to create public awareness on voting. “Honestly speaking, I was one of the few from my group of friends who was involved in this campaign. Many people didn’t feel strongly about it. They felt it wouldn’t make a difference.”
Around 54% of the city was in that majority, given that the polls registered a low voter turnout of around 46%.
Even so, students feel their efforts had some impact. At different colleges of the Rizvi group in Bandra, students carried out a series of events. Setting up mock polling booths to help replicate the experience of voting was one of them. “Our first target was college students, you have to start by preaching at home,” said Kshitij Zode, 22, one of the organising committee members from Rizvi College of Engineering. “I can vouch for the fact that everyone in the campaign would have gone and voted.”
At other colleges in the city too, students pitched in to get people to vote. KC College in Churchgate hosted a session where students got a chance to interact with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
And for some, for whom voting was out of the question, they did the next best thing: getting their parents to vote. School students as part of the Children’s Movement for Civic Awareness went around telling friends and family members the importance of voting.
“I told my relatives and family to vote, and I think I was successful because they all voted,” said Rushi Tawade, 13, a Class 7 student of Balaji International School.