Political Stories by Volga

Political Stories-11 Elections – Part 1

          The envelopes handed to the lecturers as they arrived at the college caused quite a stir. Male lecturers were asking each other about the villages they were assigned to, reminiscing about their past experiences and recalling the facilities available in those villages.

          The female lecturers were talking anxiously. “We told the principal not to include our names,

          ” said Uma.

Maybe that was the problem. Because we said that, he made sure we were included. We brought it on ourselves,” Suguna responded.

          Kamala couldn’t contain her anger: “Ok, let’s say he did that to spite us. What about the fellows at taluka office?

          Shouldn’t they have some sense? Last year they just watched amusedly as the men sat in the reserve vans and forced us to climb on to the lorries. Couldn’t they have at least provided us also with a reserve van?”

          Why would they? They are peeved of women becoming lecturers and earning as much as men, Pushing us onto log files is their way of getting back at us,” said Suguna.

          Ael, now that we are assigned duties there is no escaping it. Let us not get worked up. Concentrate on what we need to do,” said Prasanna.

          Uma expressed her resentment: “Of course there is no way out. It is written clearly at the bottom of the page that if we don’t do it, we will be prosecuted.”

          “Look at the scheduling of the election class! Why does it have to be on a Sunday? If it was on a working day we could have skipped the college work for official duty. Now we are stuck with both jobs and we won’t get any rest even on Sunday?”

          “What will they tell us in the election class?” asked Vimala who was attentively listening to everybody until then.

          “Nothing. What they tell us will cause confusion and clear our heads of anything we had already known anything about elections. We go to the class just to collect money. If we listen to what they say it will raise our blood pressure and we will surely mess up on our duty. Maybe this is your first time. Just don’t listen to them,” advised Rangarao.

          “If I don’t listen, how will I know what I am supposed to do?”

          It is actually easier if you don’t know. If you follow what they say, there will be unnecessary problems. You will find out yourself when you go to that class.”

          the school bell rang just then and everyone rushed to their classes.

          The campus of the Junior College was filled with lecturers who came for the election class. About a hundred were seated in a lecture hall Nobody could hear a thing though it was clear from the lip movements of the tasildar that he was saying something.

          «What a mess!” said somebody.

          «What do you expect when a tasildar takes a class? They could have asked one of us, experienced people, to do this.?” «If we do it, how will he get the money?” quipped Suguna.

          Just then ballot boxes were brought into the classroom.

          “Look at the box. This is how you open it” Uma went neat one of the boxes and demonstrated how to open the box.

          “The only thing I find difficult in this whole election duty is closing the box with the paper seal,” she added.

          “What is a paper seal?” asked Vimala, innocently curious.

          “Oh, so I have to start at the beginning for you! Why don’t you read the book? Everything is in there,” replied an annoyed Uma.

          The class was over and everybody swarmed around a desk to collect their money. This was probably the only class that paid the listeners. Vimala understood virtually nothing in there. What would her responsibility be? How did one open that box? How should it be closed? What was with a paper seal? It was all confusing to her. She was even more worried after reading the book that night. What if she made a mistake with the ballot count, the presiding officer diary or some such thing? She had dreams about paper seals and polling agents. There were forty envelopes in all. What if there were challenge votes or tender votes? I hope there won’t be any, she prayed. If any blind person came to vote nor could I hear The number of forms she would hate thail out and have the voter fill out Unbelievable On cos Ofalchat there would be young people who would lie about her age to vote. Having them sign declarations would be an impossible task.

          If the booth served an estimated 1000 voters, about 600 voters would turn up to cast ballots during the 8 hours the polls were open. A blind person would probably take about 5 minutes. Who knows how much time a challenge vote would take? Ten such votes would be enough to mess up the day.


An R.D.O. was the instructor for the second election class 

He told the class: “You should come before eight and collect your materials. Finish your lunch by eleven and be ready to board the lorry by twelve. And remember, you should remain in the building where you are assigned duty, no wandering around. You should not visit anybody in the village and should not eat at anybody’s house.”

          “You will send us food then?” asked somebody.

          “No, that wouldn’t be possible for us.”

          “So should we starve that night and the whole next day?”

          “You can carry bread and fruit with you,” the R.D.O. replied.

          “And if we pass out?” That caused a ripple of laughter in the crowd.

          “Why all these nonsensical questions? We will be guests in the house of the president or the munisif. We will eat there.

          That is what will happen no matter what this guy says. If you don’ like to listen to this fellow’s nonsense, just go out ora while. Don’t ask unnecessary questions and irritate ev-erybody,” advised an experienced hat.

          There shouldn’t be any photographs of politicians in the room where you are on duty. You have to be very conscientious with your work because our democracy depends upon conducting these elections properly,” the R.D.O. began his speech. The lecturers started talking among themselves and created a din in the room. At the conclusion of the speech, they had all collected their money and left.

          Vimala rushed to the school near the taluka office arriving there before eight. There were many lorries parked in the school compound. Classrooms had boards hung in front of them each displaying the number of a polling station.

          Vimala found her polling station number on a board and entered that classroom. She found the route officer and his assistant there watching over ten full sacks. Nobody else had arrived yet, apparently. They enthusiastically welcomed her and handed her one of the sacks. She was puzzled.

          “What is this? What am I supposed to do with this?” she asked, confounded. The sack appeared heavy.

          “Everything you need is in there. Here is a list of the con-tents. Please open the sack and make sure everything listed on the sheet is in it. If anything is missing, you can get it right now. Once you go to your station you can not get anything. Polling might get held up and you can run into serious problems later. Please make sure you check everything carefully right now,” he said making her even more anxious. Wondering what invaluable things were inside, Vimala opened the sack very respectfully. A pack of envelopes, writing paper, needles, thread, stamp pads, candies, lacquer, pens, and pencils. Virala was a bit disappointed, but everything on the list was there. By then, the teacher Who was supposed to be her assistant arrived. He had ap. parently done election duty on five separate occasions Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything,” he reassured Vimala.

          “I can’t figure out how we are supposed to open, and later seal, that ballot box,” she said, helplessly.

          “I told you I will take care of all that, you just look after the papers, envelopes and signatures,” he said confidently.

          The envelopes also bothered Vimala. Why so many of them? By then they were given paper seals and Vimala became more concerned.

          “You have to close the hole of the ballot box with the thin graph paper. You should be careful not to tear the paper, because, if it is torn, you will be thrown in jail”, Vimala remembered the R.D.O’s lecturing. She put the envelope with the paper seals securely in her handbag. They counted a thousand ballot papers and put them in the sack. Her assistant went away for lunch while Vimala sat guarding the sack and looking intermittently at her handbag.

          Vimala was thirty-years old, but she had never voted. Whenever her friends or members of her family asked why she did not vote, she would joke that none of the candidates deserved her vote. She wasn’t interested in politics. But she had great faith in the democratic process, and believed that if good people contested in the elections, people would elect them and that good governments would be formed that would tackle the issues.

          The lorries were ready by then. Vimala was the only woman in her group and everybody suggested that she take her seat in the cabin. The driver and the route officer were the other occupants of the cabin. Casually looking around, Vimala caught the route officer’s lewd eyes. Confused and scared, she checked to make sure her chest was covered and drew the pamita of her sari over the shoulders to cover her neck. But he continued to look at her in spite of knowing that she was aware of his stares. Vimala’s body trembled in anger. She wished she could just disappear. Her face turned red in indignation of being looked at as a sex ob-ject. Tears welled up in her eyes. She recalled a discussion in the college a while ago. A lecturer had argued: “What are you folks complaining about? You have every opportunity.

          You just keep reminding yourselves that you are women, feel inferior and blame men for it. If you ask me, it is women who are bosses at home these days. Even outside the home, your problems are imagined, simple ruses to agitate against men.”

          What would he say about her situation now, Vimala won-dered. This animal is looking at me as a carnal object. He is only aware of my sex, not even conscious that I am a human being. How can I not be worried in this situation? How can I not cry out that this is a problem for women who work outside the home? Will this problem be solved if I just pretend there is no harm in his looks? Vimala’s thoughts were abruptly interrupted with the route officer suddenly falling over her. “This road is awfully uneven, it’s just breaking my back,” he laughed lewdly. The lorry stopped just then. They had arrived at Vimala’s polling station.

          It was an elementary school with corrugated metal sheets for a roof. The surroundings were filthy. Iwo classrooms were converted into two polling stations, one for men and the other for women. Vimala was the presiding officer for the women’s section. She had two other teachers as her as-sistants. Apparently they had previous experience and soon started stamping the backs of ballot papers. They asked Vimala to sign about five hundred of the stamped ballots.

          “I thought I shouldn’t sign them today?” Vimala said. They laughed, and joked, “We can’t do this duty if we follow all the rules. It would be very hectic tomorrow morning. Nobody will come to check today, just sign them away?»

          By the time she signed five hundred papers, Vimala was tired of her own name.

          “But isn’t it likely that we will have a thousand voters?” asked.

          “Not really. Five hundred at best,” they said. Vimala was relieved that she wouldn’t have to sign more ballots.

          “Let us look at the papers that should go into these enve-lopes. If you sign them, we will put them in the envelopes and seal them,” said one of the assistants.

          “Now!” Vimala was taken aback.

          “Of course. Tomorrow there will no time for this. Here is the declaration form you have to fill if blind voters turn up. Just write Nil on it, and sign, and put it in the enve-lope. I will seal it”

          “So there are no blind voters in this precinct? Are you sure?” she asked.

          You are something! Blind voters may come, but then they will come with somebody who will help them vote, or you will help them. If you insist on filling the papers then and there, there will be no time to conduct the poll. It would be a miracle if we can manage a hundred voters. Besides, even if vou follow all the rules, nobody cares about these pa-pers. They will just toss them out. The only thing that matters is the ballot count. You don’t worry, just do as I say?” he said, displaying annoyance.

          About twenty five covers were prepared in about an hour.

          Vimala was dumbfounded. Why so many rules if none were followed at all! How worried she had been about the challenge votes and tender votes. All that was a waste?

          That night Vimala was served dinner at the president’s house, where she also slept. The idea of sleeping in the school was scary. There was a terrible stench there and the surroundings were covered by bush. There were probably snakes in the bush! Moreover, if everything was done according to the rules, she wouldn’t have minded putting in any amount of effort, but the whole process was riddled with fraud and corruption. There was no point in making it any harder on herself. But Vimala couldn’t sleep peacefully even in that house. Was the paper seal secure in the hand bag? She had asked that her hand bag be locked up in her hosts almirah. What if the house was robbed by thieves that night and they took her hand bag too! The polling would be held up for the paper seal. What then? Vimala couldn’t sleep the whole night alternately imagining these worst case scenarios and consoling herself.


(To be Continued-)


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.