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Who ruined my elections?


PUJA AWASTHI | Lucknow, January 19, 2012 12:50
Tags : Assembly elections 2012 |

My earliest election memory goes back to the time when I was in school, much before I had read my first chapter of Civics and certainly much before I had seen the inside of a voting booth. On the short walk between where my school bus would drop me and what was then home, I would hear an election jingle that went “Mohar meri lage gi wahan kamal ka phool ho jahan…baliye…”. (Roughly translated…I will stamp on the lotus flower).

The ditty was set to a very popular old Hindi film song. My young mind found that jingle so arresting that even after so many years I cannot remember the original lyrics. The old tune, the election lyrics…that is how I remember it.

There was another popular slogan that went… “Chunnu ki Amma, Munnu ki Amma kidhar ja rahi ho? Haath ko vote dene ja rahi hain” (where do you go Chunnu/Munnu’s mother…we go to vote for the Hand). That slogan became such a hit between my brother and me that throughout election season we used its variations to ask the simplest of questions, always ending them with a long-drawn hooooo.

Those were the years when elections were colourful, boisterous affairs, taking everyone in their vibrant sweep. Contestants would ride by in impressive convoys that choked roads, banners and buntings would dress entire colonies, badges and flags would be thrust into hands freely and gifts like caps, pens, dupattas given abundantly.

It was also the time I did not understand politics but cried for hours after my class teacher announced that Indira Gandhi had been shot by her bodyguards and spent days being numb at the news of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. It was also the time when I couldn’t see through a class mate’s claim that her family had voted for Amitabh Bachchan. Given that Bachchan contested from Allahabad and my classmate was in Lucknow that could not happen, but I was too ignorant to know and made it a point to congratulate her on a choice well made!

That was also the time of Doordarshan and staid electoral debates in grainy black and white which the elders in my family would dutifully follow. I remember my grandfather holding up his radio to his ear for that all important 7.30 pm AIR news bulletin, his brows knitted together a little more deeper than usual in election season.

I could not vote but the elections were all around me. Their excitement was mine.

In college (at Lucknow University) I witnessed the same spectacle and noise. The most stand out memory being that of a candidate in handcuffs, trailed by two policemen folding his hands before a petrified me for votes!

As the years rolled by the elections became quieter and quieter. My link with them was kept up by the elections campaign trails I followed, the rallies I covered and the politicians I interviewed. I understood politics better, had improved analytical skills and came to know my Civics first hand. But I lost the thrill.

I saw the elections, I covered the elections, I understood them in bits, but I did not necessarily enjoy them.

Make no mistakes. I have the greatest respect for the Election Commission. Over the years it has done a commendable job of cleaning up the electoral space. I have witnessed the horror of 21 women getting killed in a stampede to collect free sarees offered by BJP’s Lalji Tandon during the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

My reporting has taken me to Dalit villages which have been able to cast their votes only because a vigilant EC made redundant the threats of upper caste strong men.

My point is simply that this process of cleaning up has also swept away the din and colour of elections.

That all they seem like any more are a civic and a professional duty. That the elections of my childhood are dead and gone.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Sunday Indian)
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017