Posted in Political

Postal Ballot: Taking Democracy To Next Level

Last evening saw a curious trio walking upto our doors. One was holding an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) model even as a lady in sari overlooked me taking a special interest in my octogenarian MIL standing behind. That aroused my suspicion. The tiny team said they were at our place to conduct a mock demo of EVM voting for my MIL who may not be able to/willing to walk to polling booth to vote in upcoming Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. (It is another story that my MIL muttered after they left ‘endha porukkikkum vote poda poradhilla!) Postal ballots for the aged and the infirm so that their votes wouldn’t be going waste. How thoughtful really! A certain political party’s volunteers the three visitors, they finally openly asked my MIL to press the button on their election symbol and carefully elaborated how she must ensure that she didn’t commit a mistake allowing her vote to go to null.

I guess this is a first time exercise in India, taking the ballot box door to door. Frankly only the Vadivel joke flashes to my mind! ‘India vallarasu aayiduchu’ he screams and I felt silly wanting to jump up and down like him thinking how smart our political people have become. Who is this desperate not to let even a single vote go waste!!!

I am raring to walk to my polling booth on April 6th to cast my vote. My son ill-advised me to vote for Kamal Hassan party even if I didn’t seek his opinion. How about me asking him to vote for BJP. Can this gen take it from us. Seriously! Looks like Gennext luvs Kamal! My whole family, I mean the younger lot, hooked on to Kamal. To state the truth, I do think he is good and uncorrupted. I was watching Kamal giving names to newborn babies in his election campaign (in tv news bulletins). I am supposed to hate him! I wouldn’t want to squander my precious vote on his Makkal Needhi Maiyam that will divide the electorate without giving a clear majority to any one.

Colourful political campaigns and election canvassing door to door. My DIL who is American is flabbergasted that they beat drums here and blow trumpets as candidates walk through the streets garlanded by crowds! Apparently that will be courting arrest in the US. But not in India! Here sub chaltha hai! After the drum beat again, my MIL feels like fainting. This noise pollution is not good for younger children and the aged and the sick alike. I didn’t expect this fanfare at least in these times of pandemic. This morning tooo a different group came up to meet my MIL but I asked them where their masks were. They were put off by my question and exchanged awkward looks. ‘We want to talk to the patti in the house’ they insisted. Patti Thattha kkum oru time varum!!

(Officials paid a visit by midday with a big ballot box screened from public view on all sides and handed over a printed sheet to my MIL to mark her postal ballot. Two police constables stood guard as she exercised her franchise upon which the paper was asked to be folded by her, then placed in an envelope and sealed to be dropped into the ballot box. Quite a spectacle. I was expecting an EVM at our doorstep really. Casting of postal ballots got over in my constituency today)

I have always voted for JJ. For the first time in over 20 years we don’t have her in election scene. Feels eerie.. At least ‘kattumaram’ old rascal is also no more thank god! Without the two who were running Tamil Nadu between them from 1989 or even earlier, it is again another first time for Tamil Nadu. Feels strange at least to me.

Btw after this postal ballot of taking EVMs door to door for the super senior citizens, why can’t our government consider installing polling booths in our diplomatic missions abroad. My husband and other NRIs have never had a chance to vote for over two decades. Last Lok sabha elections there were rumours that the Indian expats could exercise their rights to vote in Indian High commissions or embassies in their respective resident countries. Instead of asking for voter’s ID or Aadhar card, the passports of NRIs can be considered our IDs for the voting. I expect our PM Shri Modi ji to seriously consider this option. You will be doing a great service to NRI community ji. This community earns valuable foreign exchange for the nation. The frustration in not having their voting rights exercised and not having a say in the nation’s economic/political affairs is building up agonizingly in the NRI communities. Hopefully our Indian govt will do something in this regard soon. PIO cardholders can be exempted from voting eligibility. Only Indian citizens who are NRIs who hold valid Indian passports may be deemed eligible.

Come to think of that, I was wondering how this can be feasible. NRIs come from nook and corners of India, from all sections of society. How many constituencies could be represented in our foreign missions. In how many countries totally. Indian expats have made even African nations their homes, for instance. In some countries there are multiple geographic locations spread out over thousands of kilometers where the Indian diaspora may be dispersed. Classic case the US. Where to take the voting to exactly. What about the timeframe. All these complexities must have stopped the Indian govt from looking into this matter. However, India has been phenomenally successful in personalizing EVMs for every single constituency in the country without hick-ups. By the same measure, we can arrive at a solution to make the NRI vote count. We have to do something about this! Just a thought.

PS: Proud to have a dear friend serving for years as election officer in Kerala. What a mammoth exercise this is. For state assembly elections, the workload is halved. For Lok sabha elections, this is truly a backbreaking exercise. Starts over 6 months to 1 year in advance with initial preparations and tasks assigned apart from manpower training. So much responsibility and accountability. Not to leave out the security aspect. I recommend the mallu picture ‘unda’ starring Mamooty for the season. Chanceh illa. How seriously India takes our democratic status. You will have an idea with the film.