The Election Circus is On, But Your “Apolitical” Friends Couldn’t Care Less


The Election Circus is On, But Your “Apolitical” Friends Couldn’t Care Less

Illustration: Shruti Yatam


Getting into a serious conversation about politics is like watching your first Splitsvilla episode — it’s smooth sailing until suddenly everyone’s yelling in your face and there’s nothing you can do but sit and nod in agreement. Depending on who you hang with, these “friendly chats” could be as passive-aggressive as a hormonal teenager or uninformed as a hormonal teenager, but they almost always end with everyone agreeing to disagree, because no one wants to go home bleeding.

Every time you make the mistake of entering one of these debates, you’re sure to encounter a fair number of alt-facts, vague counterpoints, and Bachelors’ degrees in Political Science. But the true MVPs of these discussions don’t need to shout to be heard. They’re the ones sitting in the corner, wondering when everyone’s going to go back to talking about the new Ariana Grande song so they finally have something to contribute. I’m talking, of course, about the people who identify as “apolitical” — the same folks who think politics is something that happens solely at workplaces and that Rahul Gandhi is Mahatma Gandhi’s second cousin.

As Maharashtra and Haryana prepare for assembly election, and political parties fight it out with strident policy memes, it’s impressive that such a large minority of the urban public has managed to stay apolitical. Considering Arnab Goswami personally yells into everyone’s ears every night and politicians are going to start putting “Happy Birthday” posters in our rooms next, I would’ve assumed everyone’s waiting for the outcome of these elections with as much interest as they were waiting for the release of Joker.

Still apolitical people not only exist, but make it a point to mention at the start of any political discussion how truly anti-voting they are. Ahead of the general elections, actors Alia Bhat and Ranveer Singh announced that they too had no political views or ideology and that we should basically consider ourselves grateful that they remembered to make it to the interview on time. And with friends in such high places, you’d imagine that regular apolitical people are bound to feel pretty validated.

The first kind of apolitical person you’ll encounter barely knows the difference between the Congress party and the Nationalist Congress Party, but that doesn’t stop them from talking about how no party’s manifesto has ever managed to impress them. This is the proud apolitical, who would have been a serious political pundit, if only they were “interested”. When elections come up, they’re the ones most likely to say something generic like, “Everyone’s corrupt these days,” or something extremely specific like, “I’d support a party that allowed me to put neon lights on my Honda City.” But alas, they never do find a candidate who inspires them to vote.

“Run for elections yourself if you think all politicians suck,” you say, almost mockingly.

“Maybe I will, let’s see,” they reply, to everyone’s dismay.

The next kind of apolitical person has no idea what’s going on, and no amount of explanation is going to make a jot of a difference, but they are willing to try pretty hard. These guys are the ones most likely to interrupt a serious Congress vs BJP discussion with a vague note like, “Congress is what they call parliament in America.” This sect doesn’t take pride in being apolitical, but at the same time couldn’t be bothered to make an effort to actually open a newspaper and read. Which would be alright, if only they didn’t also treat you to a mini-rant about how the roads and government hospitals suck, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Man, if only there was a way to choose our representatives…

Between these two major groups, you’re bound to be introduced to a number of new-age, one-line ideologies like, “Just no government at all, bro,” or nihilistic phrases like, “My vote doesn’t count.” But, as it turns out — and trust me I’ve confirmed this with multiple sources — that is exactly what they do with votes. They count them.

This brings us to the last, and rarest form of the apolitical person — the self-aware kind. These guys couldn’t be bothered to fill out some shitty form online, or spend hours checking out party promises, so they just don’t vote. They get their news from screenshots on Instagram and from friends who’ve run out of other things to say. But at least they’re honest about not giving a shit. However, if a day comes when Aaditya Thackeray goes from tiger cub to CM, they’ll be the last to know, so the joke’s on them.

The truth is that elections have a pretty terrible reputation in this country for being the most useless activity after notebandi, and no politician is ever going to have the appeal of a bingeable new Netflix release. Apolitical people probably have better things to worry about and that is a little enviable. But in the long term it’s a slippery slope – you know what they say, once you go apolitical, you rarely go back.