Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Sick of apathy to demand for basic amenities, Karnataka villages boycott polls

Vasanth K C of Nemmar Post near Sringeri in Chikkamagaluru district says his village too boycotted the elections, demanding basic facilities. Of the 64 voters in the village, only 32 exercised their franchise.
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 22:42 IST
Last Updated : 05 May 2024, 22:42 IST

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Poll boycott has emerged as the last resort for several villages across the state this year to make the ‘deaf’ administration hear their grievances.

A few villages have decided to boycott polls for basic facilities like road connectivity, drinking water, electricity, medical care and polling booths in their villages.

In phase 2 of the Lok Sabha elections on April 26, the state reported several incidents of poll boycott. 

At Indiganatha village in Chamarajanagar district, residents vandalised the polling booth and damaged electronic voting machines.

Nagendra N, a tribal leader from Indiganatha, says: “For the last seven decades, we have been demanding better road connectivity and basic facilities at the four hamlets under MM Hills Gram Panchayat. Every time, officials assure us that as soon as elections are over, the hamlets will get basic civic amenities. But our demands were not met. So, we called for poll boycott. The district administration managed to convince a section of the voters to exercise their franchise. The other group, comprising youths, was angered by this and resorted to violence.” 

The village, which has around 528 votes, saw only 71 votes being cast in the repolling held a few days after the violence.

“We will not back off from our protest till our demands are met. We have submitted enough memorandums and applications. The administration has to act now,” he said.

Vasanth K C of Nemmar Post near Sringeri in Chikkamagaluru district says his village too boycotted the elections, demanding basic facilities. Of the 64 voters in the village, only 32 exercised their franchise.

“Ours is the only village in the area which does not have electricity. There is no road to our village. We carry the sick in a blanket for two km to reach the highway,” he says. Nestled in the Western Ghats, the village lacks drinking water facility too.

Vasanth says repeated requests to provide facilities in the village have fallen on deaf ears of the government.

Pavan Kalyan, a resident of Devikunti village in Chikkaballapur district, was among the 300 voters in his village who boycotted this year’s polls.

“For the last 20 years, we have been seeking a better road connecting our village to the nearest town. No ambulance comes to our village in times of emergency due to bad roads. A majority of the youths are migrating to Bengaluru due to poor facilities here,” he said. 

More than 3,000 fishermen of Honnavar in Uttara Kannada district threatened to abstain from voting on May 7, demanding scrapping of the private port project that threatens not just their livelihood, but also the ecology.

The fishermen have now decided to cast their votes after they got a categorical assurance that their grievances will be redressed. They have been told to come to Bengaluru after May 9, so that a solution is worked out.    

Rajesh Govind Tandel, president of the joint action committee of Kasarkod fishermen associations, Honnavar, hopes that steps are taken to save their lives and livelihoods. 

“For us, every vote is important. We want every eligible voter to exercise his or her right. By participating in the democratic process, they can still get their demands fulfilled,” said Bhatkal assistant commissioner Nayana N. For the voters of Chapoli and Kuppatgiri villages in Khanapur taluk of Belagavi district, the call for a poll boycott brought the desired results as the administration fulfilled their long-pending demands.

Padmashri Patil of Kuppatgiri says people in the village had called for a boycott of the 2023 Assembly polls. 

Within two months of the promise for implementing the drinking water project, the officials completed the work. 

Praveen P Wari of Chapoli says when 520 voters of his village said they would not cast their votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the officials responded after the elections and laid roads using the MPLAD funds.

Manoj Kumar Meena, the chief electoral officer of Karnataka, says villagers are threatening to boycott polls over issues related to basic facilities.

“Officials cannot give assurances to fulfill demands when the model code of conduct is in place. The villagers should participate in the democratic process. They then get the right to demand that the elected representatives and the officials implement the works,” he says.  

Published 05 May 2024, 22:42 IST

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