Thursday, July 25, 2024

Election fever in Karnataka


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By Priyan R Naik

Meghalaya had its Legislative Assembly elections in February 2023 when 60 members got elected, this time in May 2023, it was Karnataka’s turn to elect  224 members to its Legislative Assembly.

The great dance of democracy began with a bang.  In this once in 5 years game of high profile musical chairs, several visits of the high and mighty were ours to cherish,  charges were unleashed, abuses were hurled at each other by the candidates in the fray, all  eager to impress an electorate with things they had done and things that would be done in the future, party manifestos promised several goodies, ranging from half a litre of milk every day to free bus rides for women. No different was the case in Meghalaya either, where catchy numbers for election sloganeering, as harbingers of change with distribution of blankets and lightweight items are witnessed in plenty.

Were these promises practical, wouldn’t the government go bankrupt if they indeed implemented all of them? Nobody asks these questions, in-fact the electorate invariably chooses to keep quiet and not discuss them, does not even take up past promises, or issues like joblessness, the chaotic Bengaluru  traffic, the squalor and filth seen all over the city, the inadequate  water connections, the numerous  private water tankers that criss-cross the city supplying water when it should pour out of  pipes, or the roads full of potholes. Or that of unhindered electricity supply in Meghalaya. The electorate is convinced this is all part and parcel of the great election tamasha,  not to be taken seriously at all?

Road shows were the flavour of the season this time. I rushed out to be a part of one such show. What crowds, what frenzy, the atmosphere was electric. Despite the long route the show was to take, there were enormous crowds everywhere. Police were  all over the place, when I tried to get onto a comfortable perch, from where I could  have  glimpsed  the visiting dignitary and star of the show, two police women came up to me  immediately and forcibly tried to prevent me from doing so. I was jostled to the rear from where an array of tribal folk dancers were visible dancing away energetically to loud ear splitting music played hysterically to mesmerise the crowd.  When the star did arrive my view was partially blocked with everybody  clicking photographs with one hand and showering flower petals with the other making it a sight to behold. (An estimated 2 dozen mobile phones were also thrown accidentally)! A similar vigour was noticeable at the Prime Minister’s address at the heart of Shillong city, with most swooning over his fleet of security personnel.

Meanwhile on mobile phones, on Metro stations and trains, being repeatedly told it is your duty to vote, I felt compelled to take a long look at the  names of the candidates representing my constituency. I tried  to learn more about the candidates from a thoughtfully provided website that gave me sketchy details of their antecedents. I found most candidates had a jump in their assets as compared to the last time. In Meghalaya too, assets of candidates were discussed at length and a song ‘vote for sure’ was launched and popularised to drive the youth to vote, expecting a higher percentage than that of 2018, at 86.65% but didn’t materialise. Do you vote for the individual irrespective of the party, or the  party irrespective of the individual?

My tryst with democracy continued when I trouped to the polling booth, conveniently located inside a nearby school. It felt great to vote as per my conscience. Having exercised my right to vote, I came out feeling triumphant with the indelible ink on my finger, proudly displaying it to whoever cared!

Next came the most exciting phase of all, the day when the results were announced. You put on the TV and wonder why the ‘Road-shows’ and all the high profile visits had not yielded the desired results. Were crowds collected and brought to  the venue to ensure success? I remember seeing a number of buses full of joyous cheerleaders being driven away after the program, or were the crowds merely curious bystanders happy to participate in India’s ‘great election tamasha’. Wasn’t this true of Meghalaya as well ? Meghalayans, didn’t you also participate in a  similar ‘Dance of Democracy’ ?


(Priyan R Naik is a Bengaluru based journalist and contributor at The Shillong Times)


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