Elections are serious business. Most people don’t realize that whenever India’s general elections take place, they are the biggest elections in the history of the world. India’s ever burgeoning populace, the status of being the world’s largest democracy and a likely increase in the percentage of voters, will ensure that the 2019 general elections will entail the largest such exercise ever carried out.
However, in many ways the election season is also the silly season. Perfectly balanced individuals start behaving in very hilarious ways when they have to campaign for themselves or for someone else. Some metamorphose themselves into expert singers of praises. They go so much over board in
praising to the skies their ‘leader’ or their ‘mentor’ or their ‘God’ that they forget all decorum and propriety in the process. For them, nothing else matters except that their leader notices how loudly and how fulsomely they praised him at an election rally.
One such worthy recently sang the praises of his boss so eloquently that in one speech he compared the latter to a soaring eagle, a delicious cake and a diwali firecracker, leaving onlookers bemused and confused, but also highly amused! Media channels have a great time when the season gets as
silly as it is these days. They take pot shots all those who don’t really matter, and pander unabashedly to those who do.
My own experiences with elections as a civil servant were extremely mirthful at times, though they did not seems so at the time! One of my vivid memories is that of a lady teacher who had been deputed by the district administration for election duty. She approached a senior colleague of mine, Mr BK Panigrahi, who was surrounded by people in the frenzy of preparations for the big day. She carried a tiny infant in her arms and threatened to leave the baby with Mr Panigrahi if he did not cancel her duties!
‘Who will look after my baby if I go? You take hold of him then!’ she shouted at him. Mr Panigrahi relented when he realized that she meant business and would actually leave the baby in his lap if he did not cancel her duty!
On another occasion the presiding officer of a panchayat election booth under my jurisdiction went off with the ballot boxes and took them home after polling was over! It seems he was so petrified that he would make some mistake in the reporting process that he just fled. Little did he know that he would have a late night visitor in the shape of the Sub Divisional Magistrate who somehow managed to retrieve the vital boxes and papers which he had hidden under his bed. Another hair-raising incident happened when there was a demonstration and road block by the relatives of a candidate who had been had been shot at and injured by the other group. What happened thereafter was that I and a posse of policemen were on the way driving in pitch darkness to the home of the assailant to arrest him. The Deputy Superintendent of Police was seated next to me, I was at the wheel, and just out of instinct, in that charged atmosphere inside the police gypsy, I pressed a switch which looked unusually out of place. A loud voice started blaring ‘Tu cheez bari hai mast mast!’ and the tension vanished, albeit temporarily, in that instant.
These are the sorts of goings on that often take place behind the scenes of an election process which is humongous in scale and high in intensity. Anything can go wrong and often does, but accolades and hats off to the hundreds of thousands of personnel on duty who make sure that the elections take place largely as they should. The election commission of India has been able to ensure that India’s elections, despite their monstrous scale, are among the best managed elections in the world.
And even more amazing are the voters who turn out in their millions with a semblance of hope in their hearts that someone who is well meaning will finally be elected. Alas, these hopes are always belied and never fulfilled. But somehow, India rolls on!