The most precious gift a human being could get in this century is that of freedom and franchise - one man, one vote - heady - mix. Electorates have become the darlings and darlings need to be cajoled, courted and forgotten. Now it depends on your purse and honey tongue - how you seduce your voter by your sweet talk, by distributing blankets (election in India are usually in winters) or by supplying liquor non stop. Candidates are allotted elephant, camel, car, sun, moon as their election symbol. There is a bad news for them. One candidate chose umbrella as his symbol and gave away umbrellas to each household, lest they forget. Now how does one propose to go about if symbol happens to be elephant, camel, etc. The maximum one can do is to give electorates a free joy ride. But rival candidate may get ideas and go around misleading voters as to how you, once elected, would take them for a ride.
There were times when voters were happy to get the symbol badges, posters and banners. Today we have come a long way on the path of democracy. Now liquor is no more distributed in bottles and poly pouches. The entire water tanker is got filled with liquor and parked before every cluster of slum settlements. The constituency is visited by jeeps packed with armed 'grass-root' workers who 'work' their way on voters. In olden times rulers who had ambition had expansionist designs. They used to invade the weak kingdoms. With passage of time we became civilized, now we go for booth capturing. Earlier voters were true to their words and attached lot of meaning to it. Today voters give you meaningful glances and seek your 'help'. Now you have to quickly grasp and translate what do they want. There is also a sea change in the weaponry employed for canvassing. Country pistols, knives and crude bombs have given way to AK-47 and RDX. India became independent in 1947. AK-47 seems to have been so named because of its immense popularity here among lawmakers and breakers alike.
Earlier population was not much, hence, not too many candidates were there in fray. Voting was over in a day. Now population has sky-rocketed. Very soon we will unseat China from number one slot. We couldn't do much in 1962, Chinese aggression but this is our field, we are playing on home ground. All set to avenge our defeat. Number of candidates has increased tenfold. Ballot paper once post card size is now jumbo-size blow up. There is another area where lot of difficulty is faced by candidates - election symbols. Earthern pot, fish, box, table, oven, cycle, radio, television, plate, thali, lota, katora, glass, hand, eyes, ears what have you.
I am reminded of a candidate who chose matchbox and went around distributing and explaining the utility of fire. How fire is the source of creation and destruction. How he proposes to create newer and newer facilities for his constituency and destroy every hurdle coming his way. He lost his deposit. In despair he wanted to immolate himself with the same match box but was prevented and advised by followers that looking to frequent dissolutions there is always a second chance and sooner than you think. He intends to contest again but with a less hazardous symbol. As per new rule, in case a candidate dies, the election is postponed sine die. This has posed massive threat to candidates lives. The poor men have to literally hide and yet seek. During last election a candidate was provided with a security guard but candidates' whole time was spent in guarding his wife from the security guard. It seems security guard and wife of the candidate became 'friendly'. Candidate had to request authorities to withdraw the security guard for the sake of security.
Come polling day, it is festival time. It is fun time candidates whom you have not seen since ages and may not see again for ages (win or lose) go around grinning with folded hands. He is petal-showered and garlanded (distributed by cronies before hand).
The greatest achievement of literacy mission - voter has really awakened can do instant calculations, doesn't waste his vote and makes most of his vote. The pesphologist are left ever confused, analyzing the trivia such as percentage of swings, rural vs. urban voting pattern etc. We have all seen how Hariya's shop has become Shri Hari General Merchant to Harish Departmental Store to today's Harry's Corner. Similarly, election propaganda has gone high - tech. Gone are the days of hand bills, cassette players and public address system. Time is of TV, Video, Computer networking. Suitably modified luxury coach named election chariot and chopper service.
Next election will be fought through 'theme' films being produced for canvassing. The Hero (candidate) saving damsel in distress from the den of villian (opposite candidate) skimpily clad pop singers giving the re-mix glorifying candidates' virtues(?) Candidate will be shown in disco (to appeal 18 - 22 age group) next scene he would be shown defending 'Bharat mata' from foreign invaders having striking similarity with rival candidates. There will be catchy dialogues. Hero would perform miracle after miracle making the feats of Silver Stallone and Arnold Schwagger appear like kid stuff.
New studios have been set up by prominent political parties. Writers directors and fight masters all are busy. New channels are being sold and bought. Multinational Companies are busy putting more satellites up in the orbit catering exclusively to Indian politicians. We made much hullabaoo on one Bofors, now so many would be there and with such a force that you won't be able to 'weep for them'. Don't you worry. Tears International - another multinational has got franchised in India. They specialize in shedding tears. They will provide you management trainees to cry on your behalf. They will do it in latest style vetted by the world bank. Groovy scene! Isn't it?
P.S ' God save my country from these politicians who are hell bent upon to 'serve' it.