Mandate Mosaics: First-time Voting

Given my long lapse  in blogging, I finally stumbled upon a topic that I could discuss, with the leisure to actually write about it. In India, election time is a most colorful phase in the lives of its citizens. As a school student, I got to view the elements associated with elections in the country: be it the bombastic sloganeering, banners lining up every visible lamp-post along a city’s skyline or the waving, cheering crowds, skirting the dusty landing site of a politician’s helicopter, as enthusiastic for or indifferent to Amul-putras  as to octogenarians.

Parties-and-India

Elections in Delhi, held on 4th December, was a different ballgame in certain ways. For one, the oft-boring two-way Indian National Congress (INC) vs. Bharatiya Janata Party  (BJP) bout was replaced by a triangular contest. And the new entrant was projected to be buoyed by drafts of air raised by the simplest of concerns and aspirations, and more physically by the Jhadoo. The party had the simplest ploy to beguile the common man…by borrowing the best trick out of the political buranjis: that they were the common men. The Aam Aadmi. With an equally striking abbreviation: AAP (Aam Aadmi Party). You. So the poor remaining elements of the political spectrum could not talk negatively of AAP without in some way referring, negatively, to the common man. What started off as part of Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption (IAC) movement had taken on a political colour in 2012, and had invaded the political discourse in Delhi, both among the pundits and their name-sake brethren. But besides the ever-optimistic tone of the party, and the assurance that they were squeaky clean (a claim dented by a certain Sting operation carried out a few days before the Delhi Elections; Suspicious timing? Maybe) and had the solution for just about every problem faced by the Delhiite.

It was a party that took the idea of a Civil Disobedience movement far too seriously, suggesting to the citizens that they should not pay the exorbitantly high electricity and water bills (as if that could change things), without having a concrete constructive step in place to make the vital difference! With the Jal Board already facing financial problems due to the waivers on late-fees by the Shiela Dikshit government in Delhi, this was a distant, rosy idea, much like other such fantastic ‘solutions’, that caught the imagination of the Aam Aadmi. I am reminded of R.K. Laxman’s cartoons on the Common-Man.

Common ManIn the cartoons, Laxman’s Common-Man was well-read and aware of things around him but seemingly helpless and unable to change certain wrongs that he faced. Today’s ‘Common-Man’, AAP-style, guided by the likes of another Laxman (Rajiv Laxman) and his slandering for cheap political fun, is all-too capable to bring the change, taking out candle-marches for relevant issues, filing PILs when needed, and yet unable to see through a veneer that unfortunately even some of the other parties tried to lay on the public’s eyes.

AAP’s urge to decentralize power (communist leanings?) had reached such absurd levels that one could very well imagine customers deciding prices in the markets, after the declaration of the Mohalla Sabha Secretariat model, wherein each Mohalla, each locality would have a governing body (not much ingenuity) that would not only look into the general welfare of the people but also into the issuing of birth and death certificates (phew, quite a job!), loosely administered by the State Government. The all-to-good power-back-to-the-people ploy!

Enough of AAP! MS Shiela Dikshit, the popular Chief Minister, and her party: the Indian National Congress have been gearing up for a fourth term at the helm of matters. The Bharatiya Janata Party, with its soft-spoken but untainted (as far as I know; that’s a big asset in today’s political scene!) Chief Ministerial candidate Dr. Harshvardhan is trying to stall its fall from grace. After 15 years in the political wilderness, the BJP, sans stalwarts such as Sahib Singh Verma and popular leaders like Pramod Mahajan, is facing nearly a make-or-break situation. With its vote-share among middle-class families said to be fairly intact, BJP is seen as favorites for these elections, according to various pre-poll surveys.

That’s for a background. Now my part in all this. So this was the first election I voted in. Given that our exams just got over and my NIUS (probably my last) trip to IISER-K is coming up, besides admission procedures and entrance examinations, I was fairly oblivious to the political weather (scalded only by the intermittent ‘The Nation wants Answers’ comment by Arnab Goswami at around 9:30 on some nights). On the 3rd, given a certain task that needed to be completed without any delay, I went to bed at around 3:40 a.m. And for the very first time in quite a few years, I never slept (for some indiscernible reason) for the entire time. And nope…political or academic worries-induced sleeplessness was not the case. Just happenstance that the following morning was the day of the elections, and I got a good case of trying to be the ever-so-for-the-country Aam Aadmi. ‘Woke up’ at ~7:20 a.m. When you are too engrossed in your work and remain fairly detached from the world around you for a significant amount of time (perturbations galore, often around quirky equilibrium points!), even places that you, at some point of time, knew as well as the features at the back of your hand seem to slip out of one’s memory. So, I went up to the NTPC gate (Arts Faculty) and was confidently about to enter when the utter desolation of the place made me walk in the other direction (briefly I thought I was such a damn good, punctual Aam Aadmi!). Thankfully, I found this portly, happy (really happy-with-life gentleman; good sight in the chilly morning) policeman who, with a senior, had to guide me, a guy who has lived in the Campus for the past 6 years to the Correspondence Course building!! Anyway, a long, cold walk later, I reached the place, only to be greeted by a Haryanvi policeman say something about no phones being allowed. I had to leave my phone at (another) portly policeman’s hands, who asked me to check his car number and that he may leave for his invigilation rounds. With this through, I joined ….a long line?! It was 8 in the morning! People are visibly becoming unhealthily interested in the working of their country’s democratic system (self-defeating non-sense I thought of adding given my absolute awe at the sight)! And then I am told that my polling center is elsewhere, at the back-end of the building complex…and it is pretty empty. I go in. Seeing I am a first-time voter (discerning eyes of the ladies at the counter!), they checked and double-checked my age, put the ink-mark and highlighted it once more, to preempt any attempt by me to vote twice (as if I was so desperate to do that!). Voted. Came out. Walked back home. That was about it, I guess.

Not to forget Baba clicking a photo of me to mark my first voting event. And yeah, the mark on my finger looks eerily like a Coke-bottle; ain’t it?

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MGM.

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