This morning I realised yet again how much of a farce Indian democracy really is. Today was the voting for Maharashtra for the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, and no doubt we have all been watching and hearing inspirational messages “issued in public interest” by various organizations, encouraging people to come out and vote. Good thing, I say, being one of those people who have insisted on using my suffrage at every election since I was of legal voting age. However, it was not to be. Here is my story.
A habitual late riser, I woke up at 6.30 this morning (!!!) in order to be among the first voters from my area. The day began well. I discovered that the polling centre that was allotted for my area is very close to my home. Two days ago, some party workers had kindly come home and handed me my voter list number and the number of my polling station. So it would be a simple, easy and painless job to cast my vote. Right? Wrong. After all, this is India!!
So here we are, four precious votes for the Indian democratic system, early in the morning, going to the booth.
We realised the error of our ways very quickly after we got there. The usual screw up is the absence of ones name from the voter list. We have realised it after having lived in over five Indian states in the past 20 something years. But this was different. This was great. I had, last month applied for inclusion in the voters list for my entire family and me. A process, mind you, that involved waiting in lines, for hours, in the hot summer sun and providing proof, yet again, that I was an Indian. So I was quite amazed and extremely pleased with the efficiency of this government when I found our names on the list so easily. 1907, onwards.
That's simple enough I thought. We made our way to the booth, which is when our troubles began. The little chit we had said our booth number was 81. Booth number 81 said voting for numbers 1 to 990. We asked. They said go to booth 84. Booth 84 said only up to number 1635. Please check in the other school three blocks away. So we tramped to the other school three blocks away. They only had numbers in the 1500 range? Sorry madam. Please try the other school… But we just came from the other school!! Can't help it madam? We only have these numbers. So we trudged back to the original school. No dice there, of course. We, being the misguided, wannabe, DEMOCRATIC, CITIZENS, decided we wanted to pursue this.
I must mention at this point that my entire family is choc-full of conscientious voters, Responsible citizens who are eager to exercise our democratic rights. So we went along in the increasingly hot day to the booth of volunteers outside. They looked at the voters list and told us we were on it. But we already knew that, didn't we? So now what? They were very helpful, bless them. They gave us a volunteer who took us around all of the area, to the four polling stations, trying to find us our booth. To no avail. The numbers from 1635 to 1910 have all been included in the voters list, but have no booth allotted to them. We even spoke to the mayor and all the polling officers in the area no one knew what was going on. No one could solve the mystery of the missing polling booth.
Strange? Not really. After all this is India. These things happen. Right? After All we should be grateful that our names were on the list at least… The fact that our booth exists in some time warped parallel dimension is not the election commission’s fault right? After all, the officer who was responsible for allocating a booth to the new names in the list is also human. He can make mistakes! So what if you didn't get to vote? This is India. Anyways only about 35% people turn out to vote, what’s a handful less?
Please remember that you belong to the least important demographic. You are educated, middle class (meaning one or two offspring per family, not worth bothering about, plus you tend to think before you vote…horror!), and an outsider to boot. A non-maharashtrian! You are lucky enough to be allowed to live here. How dare you aspire to vote? So, finally, at 10.30, 3 hours and a lot of irritation later, we finally gave up. I just wish somebody had told me that my vote was not needed. I would have spent the day at home and enjoyed a nice holiday like so many irresponsible Indian citizens!