Bangalore: Karnataka capital Bangalore boasts of being home to over two million graduates and diploma holders, but still cuts a sorry figure as only a few thousand of them care to vote to elect a representative to advocate their interests in the state legislature.
The Karnataka legislature consists of two houses - the 225-member assembly and 75-member council. The council is made up of 25 members elected by the assembly, 25 by local authorities, seven seats are for graduates and diploma holders, seven are elected by teachers and 11 nominated by the government.
Each graduate constituency consists of several districts. Three of the seven seats, including the Bangalore one, is going to polls in June. The elections are held once in six years. Only those who have acquired a degree or a diploma three years prior to the election date are eligible to vote.
To vote in these polls, graduates and diploma holders also have to separately register themselves as voters with the state election authorities even if they are already registered as voters and have an electoral identity card.
The separate voters list is meant to ensure that only genuine graduates and diploma holders get to vote in these polls.
However voter turnout in the polls to graduate constituencies has been dismal for decades. Even the number of graduates and diploma holders registering themselves as voter has also been dismal.
For instance, in the last elections in 2006, Bangalore had an estimated 1.5 million graduates and diploma holders. But only around 60,000 of them had registered themselves as voters. Of this only 20,000 actually voted.
Now a major campaign is on by various groups to prod graduates and diploma holders in Bangalore city to enlist as voters and also turn up at the polling booth on D-day.
The campaign is being supported by former Lokayukta (ombudsman) and former Supreme Court judge N. Santosh Hegde, former Infosys director T.V. Mohandas Pai, several members of the India Against Corruption group.
Residents' welfare associations in most of the multi-storey residential complexes that have come to dot the city skyline in recent years have also become active partners of the campaign. They have put up notices in their complexes urging residents to enlist as voters.
Many of them have made arrangements to collect the application forms in bulk from their members and submit them to the authorities.
Internet is also being widely used with several residents' association uploading the registration form and instructions on where to submit them.
May 5 is the last day for registration.
The group backed by Hegde and Pai is also sponsoring a candidate Ashwin Mahesh who is active in several Bangalore improvement efforts.
Mahesh, who has an M.S. in astronomy from Vanderbilt University and Ph.D. in geophysics from University of Washington, has also started a web campaign on why he is contesting for the Bangalore Graduates Constituency.
Hegde himself registered as a voter for the Graduates Constituency election April 12 along with a large number of people rooting for Mahesh. Pai also enrolled April 27.
Hopefully the June elections will see more Bangalore graduates turning voters for a change.
The Bangalore Graduate seat is now held by ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's Ramachandra Gowda. The party has announced he will be renominated to contest the poll.
The election authorities are expected to announce the election date soon.