The 2014 general election saw an all-India voter turnout of 66.38 percent, the highest-ever in Indian polls, with 15 states and union territories registering their highest-ever polling percentages since independence. Imagine the power, the scale and the sheer numbers involved, with a population of 1.3 billion and the average voter age being 23yrs in India.
Many analysts have concluded that this bump in the voter turnout has been due to various reasons, be it the incumbency, corruption, need for change and a leadership crisis. But the most unanimous and accepted reason has been something else, it is the awareness – the power of the vote that the voter has recognized and fully realized. There have been many organization, people, media, political parties who have helped in creating this awareness, one such group has been this bunch of five young riders who have teamed up and ridden to every state capital in the country. Its called the “Vandemataram Ride” and is an idea of Mr. Bharadhwaj Dayala. The team comprises of Christopher(Mumbai), Nadar Navin Nair(Mumbai), Jaspreet Singh Monty(Bidar), Raman Balyan(Gurgaon) and Bharadwaj Dayala(Vizag).
The main idea was to promote the right of exercising your vote and also to spread the word about NOTA- None of the above option that the election commission has introduced from this year whereby you have the option to reject the candidates who are contesting. Hence, you have a say, the power to reject and to be heard. For the record, 60lac NOTAs have been registered in the last election or almost 1.1% of the registered electorate.
The Vandemataram riders started from Mumbai on the 15th of March, 2014 and rode through 29 states of India, addressing rallies, meeting college students and bringing awareness through the biker clubs in those areas, covering a total distance of 15000 km by the time they finished the ride at Mumbai on the 27th of April 2014.
I have had the opportunity as a member of Wanderers Biker Club of Hyderabad, who has been one of the many supporters of Vandemataram ride, to meet and interact with Mr. Jaspreet Singh Monty who has personally shared his experience with me. Monty was the youngest rider of the lot at 23yrs. They had been through lonely forests, ridden through rivers and dangerous landscapes, had to brave various issues, take care of health and keep the bikes in condition and to top it, had to be all enthusiastic and spread the word of NOTA at hundreds of gatherings, and might have interacted with as many people as the kilometers they traveled:15000. Monty is from a relatively smaller place, Bidar in Karnataka, than the rest of the team. He had a tougher time convincing his family too, as he was all of 23, and mind you, every rider funded the ride through his pocket. I feel, as Monty says,” even if 10% of the people we met have gone an exercised their franchise, we’ve achieved what we wanted” Its great how these brilliant set of bikers took upon themselves to meet unknown people, traverse through rough terrain and spend their hard-earned money, for the sake of making India vote. No politics, no hidden agendas, no sponsorship deals but just for the love of the nation.