So, here it is – the 24th of April, polling day for the state of Tamil Nadu!! This will be the second time in my forty odd years that I will be exercising my franchise. Before you wonder, let me clarify the doubt- I had not voted earlier because my name was not on any voter’s list until the year 2009!!
The daughter left early for a poll booth. As a student reporter in a neighborhood newspaper, she has been given an assignment to observe poll booths, speak to residents and do a small write up. I could not help feeling a little nervous as this sixteen year old pedaled away on her bicycle armed with a notepad and pen. The reason for my nervousness is difficult to explain. As a middle class Indian my image of election s, campaigning and polling are not very pleasant. I think a lot of this has to do with my mental image of people in politics!!
“Don’t worry, it is not assembly elections. She will be okay” reassures her grandfather over the phone. Why? “Are candidates contesting Lok Sabha elections “safer” to be around with? “ I wonder. At this point a cartoon in the Tamil magazine “Ananda Vikatan” comes to mind. Appa had pointed it out to me ages ago when I was in school. It showed two disreputable looking chaps sharing a dais as two citizens were in conversation in the audience. One of them was asking the other “ Which one of the two on the dais is the MP and which one the MLA?”. The other chaps responded saying “ The fellow who looks like a rowdy is the MLA and the chap who looks like a pickpocket is the MP”!! So, I guess there are levels of dishonesty with certain levels being perceived as being more dangerous than others!
As a citizen, one of the facts that troubles me is the lack of what I consider “decent” people in politics. When I say decent I do not mean the English speaking variety who give out good bytes in their TV interviews ( though that does have its own appeal). I mean an average person who lives in his/ her constituency, is doing something for people there, attends the house sessions raising issues and is overall an honest person. Unfortunately there seem to be very few such people!! The party politics system of our democracy prevents citizens from voting for individuals. We ultimately end up voting for a party!!! And often in a bid to vote ( or not vote) for a party whose ideology is something that we may or may not agree with , we end up voting for the wrong person!!!
I do not know how parties decide on selection of candidate or constituencies. They seem to be courting people who are famous, whose public image will draw in voters or it is sometimes the reverse where hardened criminals try to develop a shade of respectability by courting political parties for tickets!! Either way it is either money or fame that decides who would be the candidates. And the choice today seems to be limited between supporting corruption or communalism. As one of my former colleagues says “ I would rather pay some bribe to a TTE while travelling on a train rather than have the train blown up by a bomb”!!!
I am sure there are many who are in a dilemma like me. There are those who seriously believe that some parties would usher in prosperity like Lakshmi floating on a lotus while others believe that some parties would be able to clean up the mess like a broom. Whatever, one thing is clear- there is going to be no clear majority. It would be a case of coalition with each supporter putting in their agenda. And the person who leads the government should have the ability to deal with these demands in a balanced manner. I doubt if the parties whose PM candidates have been announced would be able to manage this. It would probably be an unstable government that totters along for a couple of years before it falls or this might be the last election that the world’s largest democracy might have! If we look at history we can see numerous examples that supports my prophecy. Hitler was supposedly a great administrator and ensured that Germany came out of the post 1st World war slump. But we know what Hitler was all about…!!
They say that India is a maturing democracy – I wonder what it means…!! But whichever government it is that comes to power, I would say we probably deserve it!! In an election it is not the candidate’s capacities that matter but the perception of the electorate about the candidate. So I guess, ultimately it would be either fear or finance that would be used to coax the large millions who do not watch TV or read newspapers to vote. In the end, it is their vote that counts!!
( Images from the internet)