Election Day

I voted last thursday, business-as-usual. So did Sachin Tendulkar. And the press opened the fireworks about his patriotic fervour. Poor man, he had to fly from Dubai, on his birthday, altering his vacation plans just for this! (Vacation from what?). Me, I merely had to walk 2 streets away, with not even a plan for the weekend. Why is it that when cricketers, film-stars and other celebrities perform normal societal duties we are ecstatically surprised?
That said, I salute the Election Commission and Polling Officials for the meticulous planning and organisation. Last week, they made a house-to-house campaign distributing printed id slips from their data base — with all information including the exact room number in Valliammal School (my polling booth), where my vote was to be cast. They said even if I had no voter’s card, this slip would do! Today morning, I got an sms urging me to vote. In Namma Chennai, all Malls, Cinemas and entertainment places have been closed till 6 pm, by order of the EC. It gives their employees a chance to vote, and removes all temptation from recalcitrant BPO types who might shirk national duty. The polling station was on a chaurasta / junction, reachable from 4 different directions; but vehicular traffic was efficiently diverted within a 100m radius and people could freely walk into the School. There was a strong Police contingent and the cops were (unusually) helpful in directing us to the right room. There were huge posters of directions and candidate lists in every wall. If somebody did not vote after all this, he/she could only blame oneself.
I went early in the morning “to avoid the peak-hour crowd”. Strangely, the entire Annanagar had the same idea, approximately 3 minutes ahead of me. So I was at the wrong end of “the early morning crowd”. My wife, who went to vote during the “peak-hour”, had no rush! Never mind, queues were efficiently managed and Turnaround Time was quick.
There was a young girl ahead of me in the queue. It was evident that she was from a upper middle-class business family, convent-educated but clueless. She must have been a few hours older than 18, the official voting age. “Is this the line for electing the Central Government?” she asked. I said “Yes”. “So where is Modi’s name in the list?”. I said “Beti, it is not possible for him to stand in all constituencies, he is already contesting from Vadodara and Varanasi”. Silence. “Then who is the BJP candidate?”. I told her that in Tamilnadu, the BJP had formed a seat sharing alliance with other parties; so in Central-Chennai constituency, you would only find a candidate from one of the allies. Stunned Silence. “Oh, who is the alliance partner whom I should look for?” It was now obvious that she was educated but illiterate. So I changed strategy. I pointed to one of the huge electoral lists plastered all over the walls. “Can you see the Murasu(Drum) symbol on top of the list? That’s the guy”. By now I had caught the attention of an armed policeman who was glaring suspiciously at me. He was certain that I was doing illegal canvassing. Meanwhile, my illiterate friend was persistent. “What about the Aam Aadmi Party? Where is their candidate listed?” This time I looked away from the list and muttered “Wahaan jhaadoo ka symbol diktaa hai naa, wohi”. She nodded blankly and approached the policeman (the same suspicious guy) with approximately the same set of questions. I was relieved. I wonder if people are ready to vote at 18?

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