Abraham Lincoln once said: “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Power of one vote is best known to those who lost elections just by one vote. None has forgotten the day when on 17 April 1999, the BJP had lost confidence motion just by one vote. In 2004, AR Krishnamurty of Janata Dal lost elections to the Karnatakaa Assembly by one vote to R Dhruynaraayan of the Congress. Interestingly former’s driver did not cast vote. In 2008 Rajasthan Congress Chief CP Joshi lost elections to Kalyan Singh Chauhan of BJP by one vote. Surprisingly Joshi’s mother, daughter and driver did not turn up to cast their votes. In 2015 Mohali Municipal Corporation elections,  Kulvinder Kaur Rangi lost to Nirmal Kaur by one vote. In the recent Mumbai Municipal elections, Atul Shah of BJP and Surender Bagalkar of Shiv Sena were tied with each getting 5,946 votes.

Recognising the power of every vote, the Election Commision has set up a polling booth for the solitary voter Bharatdass Darshandass of Banej village in Gir forests of Gujarat. Come elections, I am reminded of my defeat by one vote in elections to class representative in college. Of course, every single vote has great power as it can change the course of a man, of a village, of a state and of a nation. After five years, the voters of the Himachal Pradesh will have this power again on ninth of November.

While to many the tussle for tickets turned out to be a cry of eureka, to many it was like a bombshell to their aspirations. After all hustling, jostling, pulling and pushing for the party tickets, now Battlelines are drawn for the ensuing polls and the campaign is gaining pace. With all babel and clamour for votes, now the contesting candidates are blazing all guns to entice the voters using every tool — sam,dham, dand, bhed.

And for voters, this is the time they can exercise their power by casting their votes. This opportunity comes once in five years and let it not go begging. Don’t let these netas and their chamchas get off cheaply. Ask them — why they should be voted for? What happened to the promises they made five years ago? Why there is no teacher for so long in the school where you send your children to get educated with big dreams and hopes in your eyes? Why there is no doctor in the dispensary or hospital in your village? What happened to the road that they had promised to construct? What about their pledges regarding turning the kucha road into pucca one? What happened to the vow that they made regarding bringing water to every house? Also ask them what miraculous things they are going to do in the coming five years to you? Ask about their blueprint for the development of your village and the state. If you are a farmer, ask them how they are going to ensure your welfare. How they are going to ensure the safety of women and children. Make these netas accountable and answerable.

Exercise your vote with wisdom and discretion. They will come to you with flattering and kissing words, but you don’t be taken by their juicy slogans because if voters get hoaxed by honeyed words and evil minds, great woes fall on the people of the state. You need not be scared of them as your vote remains always secret and better you keep it secret.

Elections belong to you, the voter, not the leader. If you turn your back to voting, it will soon burn your back. So dear voters! Don’t sit back on 9th November. If you don’t vote, someone else is going to make a leader who doesn’t deserve to be there.

(The writer is a freelance contributor based in Shimla)