Sunday, 11 May 2008

Silent elections

I cast my vote for the first time in my life yesterday in Chamundeshwari constituency in Mysore in what has been touted as an election which should serve as a model for the rest of the nation by most of the media. It was uncharacteristically silent and I saw more vehicles that said "On election duty" or "election observer" than those proclaiming their party affiliations.

One blog I check three or four times a day is lawandotherthings. It pointed out this piece by R. Vaidyanathan which gives a new perspective on EC strictures during elections and questions whether the code of conduct really needs to be as strictly enforced as it was this time. The author points out the paradox of our system wherein a candidate handing out saris and utensils is said to be bribing people for votes and a candidate who promises free saris and utensils is saying it as part of his manifesto

"the system accepts and encourages bribes to be given from the public exchequer but not from private initiatives and wealth"

Funny and fine except here we are assuming that the bribes do come from private initiatives and overlooking the fact that this 'private initiative' will be replenished from the public exchequer if the venture turns out successful. I plead guilty to generalizations but still.

I shall use the advantage of hindsight I have over the author and point out that the elections turned out to be almost 100% incident free. Also the lack of extensive campaigning by anyone doesn't seem to have affected the turnout significantly and a healthy 60% turned up to get their index fingers colored. This dents the argument that the "sanitized election process" has alienated the people.

On the contrary one has to admit that the code of conduct has in fact lowered the pedestal of the big candidates and otherwise obscure candidates (those who simply can't spend so much on an election) a better shot as they are not as small in contrast anymore. This coupled with the general disappointment with the big three may result in a large number of independents entering Vidhan Soudha.

Any claims that candidates have spent much more this time is just bulla. The numbers of film stars roped in for the campaigns and the number of private aircraft used in 2004 would put the Beijing Olympics resource mobilization team to shame.

In fact apart from a few aberrations like stopping the CPI(M) candidate from campaigning in his own constituency and censoring anti-price rise speeches, I recommend a clap-clap for the ECI.

Last night amidst gathering info regarding which way my extended family had voted I found more on the same lines by Swapan Dasgupta in the pioneer who takes it a little further and attacks the brainchild of a hero of my childhood, TN Seshan. (I have to admit I had no clue then about what sport the election commissioner played. But to have all the adults around you praising one man to the sky can have a profound influence) . I am now reminded of my obligation towards the other blog which I have jointly started with Ankit and further thoughts about Seshan's Guidelines will go up there.

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