The Mother of all elections

This one was a by-election necessitated by the death of our sitting MLA a few months ago. It seemed as if the whole of Tamil Nadu had turned up for the tamasha, since it was the only election in the state.

There was a party functionary (AIADMK) camped in Valagapattu, who showed up with two Valagapattu boys and after some polite hemming and hawing pulled out Rs 2000 for my vote. I refused as usual, but he was insistent and it was almost as if I had to apologise for not accepting the money. The Valagapattu boys eventually convinced him that I was not “acting” and he went away, disbelieving to the last.

Chandran and the DMK gang didn’t show up at all. Having become used to my refusing to take money, they probably decided to save their breath. On offer was Rs 500 per vote.

Then there were the stories of the thalaivars and thalaivis who came. Jayalalitha made it to Belur. But, “did you know? (conspiratorially) the person who drove her, went home and died of a heart attack: Poor fellow: What did he take with him?”

I saw Karumandurai crowded beyond imagination on the day Stalin was to visit. I couldn’t walk across from Kasi chettiar’s kadai to Jothi’s vegetable shop because of the crowds! At the time, like galaxies colliding, there were two counterpointed processions, DMK heading for the bus stand where the action was and a “keeda” AIADMK procession headed the other way: Bikes, people on foot, and a few “pick-up” vandis with cut-outs and loudspeakers. This meeting too claimed a life. Idiotically someone was planting metal poles for the banners and didn’t see the electricity wire above.

The road to Valagapattu has many Rising Suns and Two Leaves painted on it, as do the rocks by the side of the road. Varun thought that the Two Leaves gang were going around painting on top of the Rising Sun, but actually the two leaves are painted with a glow paint: The difference in the paint can be seen in these pictures, one sans flash and the other avec flash (All these pictures are taken by Varun at dusk)

sansflash

avecflash

On Election day however all the proprieties are observed: My voting slip does not have any party affiliation; there are no people within 200 m of the polling booth in any direction. Varun and I set out at 11 o’clock, but were turned back by the “boys”: “There is too much of a crowd; we will tell you when it reduces”. Eventually Varun and I walked down to the Thekambattu school at around half past three and I voted in minutes.

votepotachu

While talking to various people about the elections, about the money spent, about the money distributed, there were various takes:
Most people thought that I was a harmless eccentric for not having taken the money. But a few felt that “It is our money: You should have taken your share. Do you think he would have given it to the temple? He probably bought some quarters and some chicken with it. What a waste.” One person felt that it was good that at least someone is not greedy for money. When I asked him what he had done, he said that he and his wife spent the Rs 4000 they got for their two votes on a cupboard.

In all this, no-one doubted that the Rs 2000 would trump the Rs 500. And that was how it panned out.

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2 Responses to “The Mother of all elections”

  1. Devanshi Says:

    Great account! Once a many rising suns ago, my aunt and I went to vote in Bangalore… entirely unschooled one of us thought we were voting for an ‘environment friendly’ party when we put our check mark against the green leaves 🙂

  2. sunder and sonati Says:

    Today on the bus to Karumandurai from Thekambattu, the conductor refused to accept 500 Rs notes. His take was: “You people have had an election here; and have each got Rs 2000: Do you think all those notes are real notes? No sir, I don’t want to be stuck with counterfeit notes.”

    Varun was most amused (The usual excuse would have been “I don’t have change”, after all) and wants to accept at least one note in the next election to “check if it is fake” 🙂

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