This morning, the DH and I experienced the pinnacle of democracy: adult franchise. Is it all just a big hoax – does my vote really count? And if it does count, should I be voting for a party that will benefit me personally or that will benefit the country? At 6:15 am on polling day, we still hadn’t decided who would get our vote…
Technology – the only reason we were able to get our voter ID cards in about a month with only a visit to the e-seva centre. It may be a decade late, but it’s here and we are very proud of the Election Commission (EC) for its use of technology in getting more voters registered. We were able to check our names, serial numbers and polling station online, which meant much less confusion and time spent at the polling station. These details are printed on the back of the voter Id card but it’s not in English or Hindi or Tamil (languages we understand) but in Telugu.
In the days leading up to May 7th, we have been trying to figure out who gets our hallowed vote, what it all means for democracy and us personally. Does my vote really matter? Even if the person I vote for gets to the Lok Sabha, the chances that he or she will even get to represent the constituency, let alone my views/needs, is minimal. The party bosses decide what comes up for debate, not me. But as someone we met on the way out of the polling station remarked, ‘You’ve come to do your duty’. That’s exactly what it was, our duty. And while we were excited to exercise a key component of a democracy, it’s tainted with disillusionment that nothing will change, and fear that the change would be for the worse.
If I was to vote for the betterment of me and my assets, I should be voting for Modi who will favour big business, the rich, the stock markets will soar and my assets will rise in value. But i’m not all about personal financial security. Giving my vote to that man will definitely spell disaster for the poor, welfare programmes, the environment and one of the most important things India needs: secularism.
Unfortunately Rahul Gandhi has done little to assuage my fears that he will weed out the corrupt old cronies that have ruled the roost so far. The Aam Admi party (AAP) gave up a little too soon in Delhi and that tarnished my view of their capability to lead. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) looked the most promising – their foreign policy on cutting off all ties military ties with Israel, supporting the formation of an independent state of Palestine and getting the US out of our military, comms and nuclear business are right up my ideological street. And while they are pro-worker, pro-poor, pro-welfare and most definitely secular they have done little to prove good governance – the behemoth of bureaucracy would probably swell. I was willing to accept all of that until I read the paper this morning in the car on the way to the polling station: the CPI(M) candidate withdrew and has gone over to the BJP. Definitely not a true communist and he just lost my vote. And then there is NOTA: None of the above. For the first time in our democratic history we the people get to say that none of these people are worthy. If the NOTA votes are larger than what the winning candidate receives, he/she should do the honourable thing and resign his seat as it would be obvious that he is on a weak wicket. Someone in Andhra filed a petition with the EC that NOTA should also get a symbol. And he suggested the donkey/ the ass: none of the above asses. I thought it was fitting but the EC didn’t take it up.
If the two big guns in this race were unacceptable, then the reasoning was to at least vote in a strong opposition. So the Aam Admi party it was. No one better to weed out corrupt politicians in power. While good governance is ideal, a strong opposition to keep those in power in check is mandatory. And no one better that Kejriwal and his gang. We’ve always said that for democracy to really be effective you need a literate population. But look at how my reasoning has flowed…is it no more intelligent than voting on caste lines? Democracy is seriously flawed…
As we walked through Shipyard Colony to GVMC high school, our minds were finally made up: NOTA for state assembly (as we probably won’t be living in this state for much longer so don’t really care) and AAP for the centre. And this being India, we had to encounter violations of the model code of conduct right outside the polling station. A group of men in safari suits that we asked directions from said, ‘Sir, please vote for fan symbol.’
So we rock up to the high school and we were the first ones in line! Our first time voting and the first ones at our voting room! Unfortunately the place was a mess – plastic water packets strewn all around, the place was dark and dingy and worst of all, dog doodoo in the corridor right next to the classroom where we were voting. Everyone was shaking their heads at the doodoo and leaping across it but no one was doing anything about it.
Polling started 30 minutes late as the machines were being tested and then had to be sealed with wax to prevent tampering. Everything was in Telugu, including the list of party names. Thank god for symbols for us illiterates in the local language. Speaking of symbols and codes of conduct, the classroom where we were voting had a kid’s drawing of a kite taped to the wall – unfortunately that’s the symbol of a party. No one noticed except me. So after we voted, we told the man in charge that it should probably be removed. He was very sweet and acted on our suggestion immediately, tearing down the drawing. Some poor kid is going to show up tomorrow and find his drawing in shreds…There were plenty of young college student volunteers which was heartening. They were a little lost but we assumed their task was to help voters figure out their serial numbers to speed up the process when they get to the booth. There was live web streaming of the polling to allow for transparency and the young man in charge was quite vigilant about no one blocking the web cam’s view.
In the coming days we’ll hear these awesome statistics about the manpower and materials required to get 815 million voters to vote: number of volunteers, the number of voting machines etc. I want to know the number of dustbins commissioned during polling..,
Apart from the delay in kicking off, the actual voting was pretty smooth. We were back home by 8am enjoying poori-bajji parcels from the nearby dhaba. I commend and don’t envy the EC officials and volunteers who had to sit there all day in the sweltering heat and 80% humidity. We were able to enjoy our day off together. Democracy Zindabad!
To top it off – it was broozi’s 5th birthday! (pictures of the birthday boy later).