What Elections Denote To Us In Himachal?
Prof N.K. Singh
Former Chairman International Airports Authority of India
Recently we have gone through a nightmare of elections in Himachalwhen too much energy, money and efforts was spent on finally electing 68 people in the state. Announcing Prem Kumar Dhumal, the prospective Chief Minister, made the task of choosing party also easier to the voters.
After the event, now we get up as if from hangover still lingering with the thought and bitterness of election. Posters, paper cups and plates are choking the gutters. Aftermath of any big event leaves behind biggest ordeal of Swachhta. Fortunately, PM has given everyone a job of Swachhta and we find things littered or dirt everywhere as challenge to be cleared. Good thing is now we know that this is the task jointly to be done by all of us. It is known that India has largest number of voters exercising their franchise in general elections and is the biggest democracy of the world.
Are we exhausted? Perhaps the candidates must be relaxing after having burnt the midnight petrol of their vehicles. Money too had gone down the drain of both the parties when allegations are rampant on buying or selling the candidates. No wonder there are 61 candidates having criminal record. This is almost full list of aspirants on trial in the courts.How much money politicians have amassed in previous years of power? The data given in the affidavits filed with Election Commission shows that there are 70 crore voters in the whole country for electing 543 members of parliament. Some estimates suggest that Rs. 2000 crore in cashincluding Rs. 8000 crores for buying tickets.
While elections are grim and dry business, yet it has a lot of fun and light moments in the process of casting votes and propaganda. In this sense, elections also mean a long intermission of enjoyment movie for adults and children. When results are out, you get another time for elation or doom
The most difficult issue for the political parties was now to generate cash after notebandi.In Himachal, the Congress charged Rs. 25,000 for an application form for the Member of Legislative Assembly ticket? This and such other measures including donations gave some relief to parties for dealing with cash crunch. Innovative ways to deal with cash was found when candidate’s men stand in one petrol pump with card and his workers come and fill tanks and fly a flag of the party and join the rally. Spending Rs. 15,000 crore on elections is perhaps the highest expenditure on democracy in the world. First four elections after freedom were almost parallel but later due to Article 356 relating to President’s Rule created situation when the separate elections were necessitated. While elections are grim and dry business, yet it has a lot of fun and light moments in the process of casting votes and propaganda. In this sense, elections also mean a long intermission of enjoyment movie for adults and children. When results are out, you get another time for elation or doom. Even pre-election ticket allotment has moment of joy or grief. Take for example the emotional outburst and crying by a former minister of the BJP when ticket was about to be denied to him. His outburst helped him to get the ticket but whether he wins or loses only electorate will decide. Some people call it advantage of sympathy factor but I think it could also underscore lack of self control also.
In most of villages, the visits of MLAs and ministers is like a festival. One day both my wife and me observed large group of ladies dressed just like for a marriage ceremony going to the centre of the village. When queried they said they are going to bazaar only to spill the beans later that they were going to see the minister who had come to seek votes. My wife wondered were these ladies with full make up going to see the minister or fully dressed for the minister to see them?. Children can be seen donning caps of different parties.
Latest entry of election toys is face masks which children like a lot. I found a child of 3 years with a mask of PM. I asked him what this is. He shouted ‘I am Modi’. Perhaps the best joke of pre-election village meeting heard so far was concerning a small village where I live and population is shown as 300 or odd houses. When a Congress minister came to the village for canvassing votes all were invited. First pradhan of the village was asked to speak. She got up and addressed the minister and citizens with the opening sentence ‘I appeal to all of you to vote for the BJP’. Embarrassed Congressmen who had organized the meeting asked her to sit down. Those who heard the appeal laughed but perhaps the lady did not know why it is a joke when she is sincerely appealing.
Worst feature of the elections is distribution of liquor and its extensive use. Most of the workers on canvassing are smelling liquoror having drink parties. The debate often centers round not what is problem of country or outcome of election but how much drink is still in the store. On such encounter I composed a Haiku in my book of poems released recently by India International Center.
Every one smelling