Two bits on this election

Since this Lok Sabha election has generated so much heat, so many posts, so much debate, here is our two bits’ worth:

Today, when I went shopping to Karumandurai, I could feel the holiday; or rather the morning after. Very few bikes, almost no men around, none of the tea shops making tea, let alone vadas. All the men were nursing their hangovers. At the Rice mill, for the first time, it was Palni’s wife who ground the wheat for me.

Yesterday was voting day. In the morning, Govindraj delivered our voting slips which he had picked up from the Thekambattu school headmaster a few days ago. He told us that our Ward 1 voting machine was “repair-u” and had gone to Valapady to be fixed. So he said that no voting was going on at the moment, and that we should go to vote in the evening after the rush was over. Which is what we usually do. And which is what we did.

So, at around 4.30, Sonati and I walked down to Thekambattu to vote.The voting itself was done in moments. On the way there and back, however, we saw that almost all the men, young and old, that we saw, were smiling beatifically, talking garrulously, “vanakkam”ing exaggeratedly. We have never seen so much drunkenness in any other election. It seems that though the cash-for-votes didn’t come through, the booze definitely did.

One great image that will stay with me is of four Valagapattu men on a bike. The driver was smiling broadly, and waved at me spaciously, completely unfocussed on the road. Whereas the three pillion riders were grimly staring at the road as if in order to make up for the driver’s lack of focus.

Some cash-for-votes did come through though.The day before, on the 23rd, Rathinam and two other Valagapattu men came by to offer us Rs 200/- each for our votes. As usual, I said that they should put the money in the Temple Hundi. As usual, they embarrassedly asked us to vote for Two Leaves and left.The DMK contingent didn’t show up.

Sonati and I were talking about the situation: Bribes, Corruption and so on. We said that of course, we would never complain about Rathinam whom we have known since he was a boy/ young man. And surely this feeling would be shared by all the villagers. Distributing cash is not perceived as a crime. In fact quite the contrary: the ones who don’t distribute the cash but keep a cut for themselves from every share are the ones who are considered criminal.

In fact, since I didn’t take the money from Rathinam, he would have boozed it away (So was it right for us not to have taken the money and encouraged his boozing ?:-)

To those who debate about these things, we ask you to reflect on the difference in culture.

Corruption is pervasive. Villagers have to shell out money for the simplest of things (An ST Certificate for their children’s concessions in school fees, A transfer of land from Father to sons), so the one time they are being offered money, they are not about to refuse on moral grounds. No question of it.

People like us talk on Facebook, and write posts about “each vote counts” and “do your duty”, but for the villagers, the Lok Sabha and even the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections are not grounded in any sort of reality. (And, to be honest, neither Sonati nor I feel that we are electing our representatives)

The Panchayat elections are an altogether different ball-game. Since they (and we) know the candidates personally, they (and we) can vote for a person — a representative. Not a symbol.
Is Representative Democracy really representative? Sunny had done some back-of-an-envelope calculation on Facebook and came up with a figure of some 30 political warlords, at the maximum, controlling Parliament. 30 people representing 1 billion!
How many of those reading this know the names of 10 MLAs in their state? 30 MPs in parliament? Not I.

By contrast, I know (not just the names but the people) half the members of the Karumandurai Panchayat (Well, actually, their husbands, but that is another story by itself). Political power must devolve “downwards”.

Having said that, we feel heartened by the fact that many people who have been apolitical and apathetic so far, have been galvanised into some action in this election. BUT this story BEGINS with the vote. We must involve ourselves with the political process wherever we can. We must hold our representatives accountable: They must represent us.

Otherwise we, too, are in the same league as the gang, which, as Sonati and I sat and watched from the Hippo Rock on Election night, drove an SUV into a field, switched on green flashing lights and had their “Meeting-u“: “Vote-u potaachu, Oru quarter podalaam

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3 Responses to “Two bits on this election”

  1. Sundar Chaterji Says:

    Brilliant, Sunder. My views exactly. Representative democracy is turning out to be ineffectual. Is participative- and deliberative- democracy possible?

  2. தமிழக அரசியல் பிரச்சாரம் (பணம், பயம், பொய், வசீகர / நடிகக் குஞ்சாமணியபிமானம், பிரியாணி, பரோட்டா, ‘ Says:

    […] தமிழக டொக்கு ஒன்றில் வசிக்கும் நண்பர் ஒருவரின் தேர்தல் குறித்த அனுபவம்:  Two bits on this election. […]

  3. coevolvewithkiran Says:

    Very good questions raised. The way forward is thru baby steps that we can take.. And conversations. I believe Sunny is doing some interesting stuff to influence the system. Wonder what Amin is up to? Any idea?

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