The second floor of Joy Apartments in Bandra, Mumbai, has become a meeting point for some young professionals and college goers every evening. All of them work for a not-for-profit, MumbaiVotes, and have a single aim—to create well-informed voters in Mumbai.

With the general election a few months away, these volunteers are working until late night to ensure that voters make a choice based on facts and not word of mouth.

Founded by Vivek Gilani, MumbaiVotes is an outreach arm of the Informed Voter Project—a registered non-profit institution also founded by Gilani that plans to set up organizations similar to MumbaiVotes in Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad, among others.

At MumbaiVotes, volunteers interview members of Parliament (MPs) and the legislative assembly (MLAs) as well as candidates contesting elections. These recorded interviews (and the transcripts) are then posted on
Mumbaivotes.com. The interviews are also made available to voters over phone through an interactive voice response system (IVR).

Gilani says the questions for the interviews are based on the key issues in the lists of the Constitution (Union, state and concurrent) relevant for each representative. Usually the politicians are forthcoming during interviews as MumbaiVotes provides them a platform to speak about their achievements, but when they are confronted with tough questions, there is a tendency to be evasive. “The viewer is immediately aware that the question has been answered ineptly," Gilani says.

Apart from the interviews, a team of research assistants goes through the information about the candidates in different media like newspapers, magazines and old videos, and prepares a report card for each candidate. The report card includes information on the criminal record, educational qualification, promises made and promises kept, and financial assets.

The research assistants are selected from colleges in Mumbai. “We usually take volunteers from second year (college) as they can give more time as compared to first- or final-year students," Gilani says. The students get university credit for their work, which means the site isn’t dependent just on volunteers.

So far, MumbaiVotes has tracked 2,522 politicians. “Voters don’t seem to grasp the idea that MumbaiVotes is not just an ‘election-only website’. It is essentially about assessing and communicating the promises and performance of elected representatives in India to incentivise progressive politics," explains Gilani.

The 2014 general election will be the first of its kind for MumbaiVotes, which already has 25 people. To make an impact, it is hiring 28 interns from various colleges around the city who will help campaign about voter awareness.

“They will be required to interview the electoral candidates," Gilani says, adding that people with multilingual abilities prove to be very helpful, although there is no specific qualification required for volunteering.

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10,000 can help them to

• Print pamphlets before elections to create voter awareness.

If you volunteer you will

• Assist in news research.

• Conduct video interviews with politicians.

• Assist them to forge internship partnerships with colleges.

Recent donors

• Self-funded

To contact MumbaiVotes, visit www.Mumbaivotes.com, www.facebook.com/MumbaiVotes

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