The election process in the biggest democracy in the world is on. Today I too went to the polling station to cast my vote as a responsible citizen of the country. I have not been this "responsible" during the elections while I was in service. That was because I had a nomadic life thanks to the transfers which happened almost every second year in my career. I can't understand the reason behind such transfers which happened on a rampant scale. Thinking positively, it could be because my efficient services were badly required in various places..! I had to shift bag and baggage seventeen times during my entire span of thirty six years of service in the Bank. And getting listed before elections in every constituency in different states was next to impossible.
Let me come back to the subject, today's operation was very smooth. The polling station was quite close by. Though it was within the reach of a ten minutes' walk, I took the car as we had to go elsewhere after the process. The whole operation was efficient, no hassles or confusion. No ballot paper. No problem of folding. The EVM and VVPAT also functioned perfectly well with a beep sound. I returned with a proud long line of ink blotch on my left index finger.
In the afternoon, I could not but think about the election which took place when I was posted in Patna in the late eighties. The building where I stayed was owned by a local doctor who was a rich landlord too. He had chosen his tenants from among South Indian officers from Banks and other companies who come to Patna on three to four years' posting. He thereby ensured regular payment of rent as per the entitlement prescribed by the employer and vacant possession after a fixed term. The owner used to keep a close track of the grade promotion the tenant got and claimed the enhanced rent with effect from the date of commencement of promotion!
On the day of polling, my neighbours, Prabhakaran and Siva Prakash ventured to the polling booth accompanied by next door friend Guptaji. The booth was at one end of Boring Road in a college. After a couple of hours, they came back elated. They narrated the story of their "voting". As and when their turn came in the queue, Guptaji introduced them to the officials as his neighbors recently transferred from Tamil Nadu. The official told his assistant to find and score off two "Madrasi names ". The ballot papers were given to them and they did cast their vote. My friends felt really glad and they praised the positive attitude of the officer in letting them participate in the process. They felt that it would have never happened in their own state even if they had offered to pay a huge sum of money.....!
The same afternoon, I also wanted to try my luck. I too went to the same polling booth. There was a queue of about ten to fifteen people. When there was only one guy ahead of me, I started rehearsing in my mind the words I would utter in Hindi to convince the officer to let me cast "my" vote. If refused, I was planning to tell them the precedence of two of my neighbors getting a chance that morning. My only handicap was the lack of knowledge of spoken Bihari to convey the matter effectively. Before the man ahead of me got his ballot paper in hand, eight to ten men armed with guns barged from nowhere into the polling booth. The roaring sound of motorcycles which I heard could be well connected to their sudden appearance inside. " Is booth ka kabja ho gaya hai. Jitna ballot baaki hai sab sahi karke hamare havale kar do," roared one of them towards the polling officials.
I took to my heels and reached home almost shivering and gasping for breath. As I reached home, I gulped two glasses of water before narrating the incident to my wife. She was rather happy because her dissuading words were not heeded by me.
The next day's paper carried the news that "the polling was by and large peaceful barring a few booth capturing incidents which were also peaceful. In one of the booths when the polling officer refused to sign on the ballot papers after the booth was captured, his right thumb was cut off by the them as they felt he should never be able sign or write thereafter."
Today when I look back, I can't but appreciate the transparency, the efficiency and the orderliness which has been brought into the election process over the past two decades. It all started with the doyen of Election Commissioner we had by name T N Seshan who occupied the seat from 1990 to 1996. The introduction of voter's ID card in 1993 and EVM in 1999 were epoch making changes brought about in the process. The recent audit trail VVPAT too is quite revolutionary.
Barring a few complaints, the system has been hassle free and fool proof. Many of the complaints raised by the losing sides are nothing more than the jackal's age old remark of "sour grapes".
And the shape things to come may include biometric recognition of the voter and voting through remote machines! With the finger prints already available on the Aadhaar site, this may not be a far cry.....
For the time being let's wait till 23rd May, 2019 to find out what the biggest democracy of the world has done......... which man (date) has been given.....!