Hari Shanker R

Hari Shanker R

A Happiness Engineer at Automattic.

My Vote

I’ve been in a dilemma ever since I was ‘enfranchised’  – The dilemma of choosing the right candidate.

Image Courtesy: lakelandlocal

I’m a sucker for elections. They bring out the news-junkie in me. Normally, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about politics, but the ‘citizen’ in me gets a wake up call the day they announce elections. I used to closely follow elections be it local, state or even national right from childhood. I’d keep myself glued to TV and keep myself updated about election proceedings. The democratization of internet made things easier for me.

When I collected the Voter’s ID card (which had my name misspelled and my address wrong), my hands trembled in excitement. I didn’t mind having a wrong address or a wrong name printed on a prestigious identification document — I was too ecstatic to notice.

But the ecstacy didn’t last long; I now had a major responsibility on my head — I had to choose my leader. And my vote did make a difference. Now, that unnerved me. I was never a man of quick choices. I had to analyse things down to the last detail before I take any decision. ‘Voting’, essentially a ‘decision making process’, wasn’t really my cup of tea, I realized.

Before I knew it, I was part of the process – The 2009 General Elections had arrived. But thankfully, my constituency was endowed with an intelligent and charismatic candidate and I heaved a sigh of relief. The elections were over, the candidate I voted for won and went on to be a Union Minister. I was happy.

Only until the dates of the Local Body Elections were announced.

Now, I was in a fix.

Especially considering the fact that I do not owe allegiance to any political party as such.

Technically, choosing the ideal candidate for a local election is way easier than the same for a state or parliament election, since the representatives would be friends or at least acquaintances. I knew one of the candidates, the incumbent – she knew me from childhood and used to strike an occasional conversation with me when I was a kid. Apart from her, I hadn’t seen or heard about none of the candidates before. Hence, I thought I’d make an informed decision.

Thus, I commenced the process of background-search.

The brief stint with journalism helped. In classic Tehelka style, I conversed with as many people as possible, in my quest to find the right candidate. I had narrowed down on three candidates, avoiding many of the independants. Independant candidates were either people with deep pockets trying to evade tax, or jobless passers-by trying their hand at a political career.

Mine being a ‘women’s ward’, all candidates in my ward are females – and three of my ‘choices’ were poles apart. From a ‘practicing lawyer’ (read: jobless housewife with LLB) to a ‘people’s mascot’ (read: yet to pass tenth grade), the spectrum was quite wide, indeed. Despite the differences, I couldn’t reach a conclusion regarding whom to vote for.  Conflicting opinions, conflicting evaluations… If one candidate had a good point, she would have a vicious negative too. If another candidate had good track record, glaring allegations of corruption propped up.

The end result? I was as clueless as a third grade kid as I woke up on the election day.

All the research and the thought-process went astray. I wasn’t this confused when I started. I’d have made a better decision, had I not gone for the lengthy evaluation. Lesson Learned: Too much information spoils the vote.

As we stepped foot into local government school, I slyly asked mom:

“Who’re you voting for, Amma?”

“You know who, mone,” Mom smiled. Mom was going to vote for her friend – the incumbent candidate. I decided to follow suit. After all, this person was educated, young and had enough experience ‘representing’ our ward before. We waited outside the voting room.

After Dad and mom cast their votes, it was my turn. Excitement and patriotism filled every cell of my body — it was my ‘responsible citizen’ moment. I airily walked in, flashed my ID Card (even though they didn’t ask for it), got my finger ‘marked’, signed. The lady at the desk pressed a switch. A beep button emanated from the Electronic Voting Machine. It was all set to receive my vote!

Picturing myself as Ranbir Kapoor from ‘Rajneeti’, I walked to the EVM in slow motion. I could hear the Mortal Kombat Theme playing in background. ‘Choose your destiny’, I almost heard that weird voice giving me the options, as my eyes focussed on the gleaming-white panel of the EVM. It was time.

I pressed the button.

The beep sound was music to my ears. My vote was registered — I was a certified ‘responsible citizen’. Treating myself with a smile, I gave another look at the EVM just to see the red light blinking near my candidate’s name.

The light didn’t blink.

Is the machine faulty? Has it been tampered with? I’d only seen reports of widespread rigging on tv, as I was stepping out. I was enraged. Why do responsible citizens like me have to suffer all the time? I’m going to file a complaint with… OMG.

A light did blink. Another light.

It was the second light from top – the light beside that candidate whom I’d eliminated from my list.

I wasted my vote.

If it weren’t unconstitutional, I’d have ransacked the whole room that very moment. My face turned red — I could actually feel the heat in my cheeks. I was a  criminal. I wasted my vote. I WASTED MY VOTE!

I looked helplessly at the presiding officer. She glared back at me. I asked myself, could this be a mistake with the voting machine? But I knew the answer myself. It wasn’t. I pressed the wrong button, in all the excitement.

Dejected, I trudged out of the room. Another person walked in, as I stepped out of the door. I felt envious – that guy’s going to make the right choice. I was not.

Dad and Mom quizzed me about my vote?

I remained silent. I had the right to do so. Secret ballot.

P.S.

The results came today. The candidate I vote for won – by a miniscule margin.

Yours truly is King Queenmaker. 🙂

© 2017, Hari Shanker R. Some Rights Reserved.
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