Yes, festival. Election is a festival of democracy as mandatory as our traditional festivals. And why so? As a citizen of the largest democracy of the world, it is not only our duty to vote but is also our duty to correctly vote. A lot of data is floating around about how many total voters, of them how many women / youth / new voters / various caste voters / minorities and so on. In an electoral democracy, numbers do matter. In the country of 1.2 billion people where there are approx 415 million registered voters (per EC), just 25 per cent votes can make a party lead the nation! So, even small numbers can easily be wooed and so they do matter; big numbers can wait.
What is important in a presidential democracy like in America was not be so in Bharat. There are preliminaries and then there are collegiums. President of America is an individual representing more of himself rather than the party. Party thoughts many a time do not form the basis of her / his selection by public. Bharat usually went in for more democratic values that respected ideologies as the basis of the political parties and based on them, Bharat voted so far. New age media influences from other countries float all over and Bharat when embraced the new media, the democracy in Bharat has become susceptible to the mighty America’s styles. Not only in what ‘India’ eats, wears, drives but also in how ‘India’ votes has been influenced now by American styles. There is no judgmental bit as to whether it is good or bad for Bharat. Change is the name of the game and the time will tell what was right for Bharat and what was just euphoric copying of the American styles for political gains. As long as the change works as a positive transformation of the systems, which do need complete overhauling now, it is fine which type of democracy is in practice.
The point here is that as a festival of democracy, there are preparations, then there are rituals and then there is a feast! Campaigns/rallies/corner meetings/door-to-door visits/TV and print Ads/Social Media posts etc are preparations for the ground to actual voting. Workers mobilisation also forms a part of it. Here is the main difference between the American presidential style and Bharat’s public style. An individual with TV campaigns and bill-boards as well as selected college/university debates, can create his or her winning platform. With such low population, field workers are limited there and much depends on visual impact and flashy slogans. In Bharat it had been much different before. Political party workers were mobilised booth to booth, their morale boosters were organised by the local leaders where long term loyalty mattered and voter turnout was ensured based on the party’s ideologies / caste or religion equations / local leaders’ chemistry with the local workers and many such aspects. There is a sea change now. Ideology (of any party) has taken a back seat. It is used as a tit bit but in a covered way. Workers are mobilised but based on the iconic string and not on party’s loyal local strength. Campaigns are based on American styles. India has a new face of elections this time and therefore, this will be the very first time, ‘India’ will vote; Bharat will watch and support.
The second aspect of this festival of democracy is a ritual that is actual voting! Electronic Voting Machines are no more a toy from Mars! People are now used to it and IT professionals have a field day during (and after!) elections. After serious objections regarding the maneuverability of the software in EVMs and after many debates, this system still continues leaving perhaps some gap for manipulations as some experts keep alleging. Does it really matter to voters? Not really. Voter has a peaceful democratic weapon which she / he can exhibit and use only on this festival! So the voting ritual under heavy security takes place with long queues of voters! The joy on the faces of the first time voters is worth watching and the helpless looks in the eyes of the elderly are worth introspecting! Rituals are ultimately rituals. They take place irrespective of whatever is the situation, be it summer or winter, be it safe or unsafe or whatever! Party workers, leaders and candidates have pangs in their stomach this day! Government personnel heaves a sigh of relief which can be heard loud and clear at the end of polling day!
The last and more important part especially the candidates wait for is the ‘feast’ that is the results! Some win, some lose. This is the 16th General Election of Lok Sabha in Bharat. It is ‘INDIA’s election this time. It has clear impressions and designs of America’s presidential elections with almost all parties gambling on one face rather than any ideology or socio-familial agenda or a fleet of long term loyal leaders. There are promises and there are dreams. Aspirations are titillated much crudely this time and vague euphoria has filled the air around. But let me tell you, it is very interesting! It is a festival anyways. There has to be a gamut of flood light flashes, slogans, helicopters, marathon rallies and then the jubilant victories of all candidates who became favorites of people this time. Amazing!
Election Commission while announcing polling dates made a remark that 98.5 per cent of voters have voter IDs. Really? While traveling, I meet a lot of people who are a floating population – generally working youth away from homes and also a large section of women in Bharat who have lost everybody during their lives. They do not have much family behind them and have no permanent address of their own house to show. The working youth share a rented flat and such women generally take shelter at some relative’s place where they have no ration card and therefore no voter ID. They want to take part in this festival of democracy but are shunned by Govt offices registering the voters on the grounds of inadequate papers. Bangladeshi infiltrators have voter IDs in ‘India’ but these sincere, honest people don’t! Those parties who are counting percentages to win should look into these large groups of dejected but eligible voters eager to vote. Our own brothers and sisters should never be left in the lurch in the festival.
The important aspect this time is the individual faces on whose names ALL political parties asking for votes. Voters will vote for individual candidates in their areas looking at each candidate’s work, behaviour, value system in her/ his personal life and her / his true or fake care / track record for the constituency. This time’s festival of democracy is unique.
The best way to celebrate this unique festival of democracy is by voting! Go out, VOTE, ‘gals and guys’ (Can’t say, ‘Dadas and Dadis, as this section of the society is ignored this time). All must vote. Ultimately, it is a festival. Go; celebrate your right to VOTE!
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