Friday, October 16, 2009

Elections and Negative Voting

Recently I had the honour of doing election duties of a Presiding Officer of a polling booth for the Maharashtra State Legislative Elections. The Election process took place exactly as expected. It was chaotic, unorganised, unprofessional, slow, very badly managed and a perfect example of how not to go about organising elections. The staff on duty was expected to take over duty on Monday morning at 0900 and get relieved form the duty on Wednesday morning at around 0100, continuous forty hours. They were expected to be awake all these forty hours, were housed in private or govt. run schools which had neither of the proper toilet or bathing facilities. The toilets were stinking, the election booths buzzing with mosquitoes and the fans hung form the ceiling and rotating as if they are drunk and are moving their heads on the beats of slow music sung by Manna Dey. Not to talk of the resting couch, the chairs provided were either plastic chairs or the wooden chairs with no couch at all. I bet your Ram Pyari (Bums) cant dare to brace these chairs for more than half an hour continuously. The hardness of wood travels up your spine and freezes it. You will have to get up and have a forced walk streaching your Ram Pyari a little backwards and giving a bow shape to your back, walking like a camel. All of us must have done that, I caught myself doing it unaware at least a dozen times. No arrangement for food or tea at all and mind you, you cant leave the polling booth and go out. As a defence person I could take all this without much of it disturbing my head. But the actual problem was communication. All the administrative staff gave instructions to us in Marathi. Nothing against the language as such but whats the use of speaking to a person if he is not able to understand what u say. This simple logic was not unfathomable to those who spoke like that but they intentionally continued to talk in Marathi. They knew Hindi and English both but preferred not to bless these languages with their tongue. Since none of us Hindi speaking person could understand Marathi, we followed instructions given to us in a English booklet. This booklet was outdated and the latest instructions were a handful of pages in Marathi. Utter confusion prevailed when it came to submitting the Statutory Papers and the Electronic Voting Machines. There is a saying in my local language, Dogri, by a famous poet Late. Sh. Denu Pai Pant. It goes like this "Hindi sadi dadi aye te Dogri sadi maa, Dadi thar Dadi aye te mau thar maa". What he meant was that Hindi is our grandmother and the local language is our mother, Both mother and grandmother have their respective places of respect and honour. Honouring the mother doesn't mean u dishonour your grandmother. I saw exactly the same happening. Those who disrespect their grand mother and say that that they are respecting their mother, bring disrespect to the whole family.
A friend of mine was so exhausted that he lay down on the cemented floor at the central pooling station when this great confusion of submitting the papers was in progress.

Not every thing was bad. I was quiet surprised to see aware and informed voters making use of a powerful weapon of negative voting or tender voting. There is a provision in our constitution that you can register you vote as tender vote. The no. of tender votes is deducted from the final total of votes for each candidate. If two candidates score 10 and 15 votes respectively and the no of tender votes is five. The final score of votes for each candidate will be 5 and 10 respectively. If there is no result after the tender voting the election is to be reordered and the candidates who has already contested are not allowed to contest again. I wish a lot more people come to know about it.

The reason for my prolonged absence form this space.

(Who the hell cares for this world)

(I am so delighted to see you)

(Come and sit with me in my umbrella)

Dear friends, I know I have been away from this space for a really long long period. But I have let u know the reason also.