I just returned having performed my democratic duty with my left index finger indelibly stained as proof of it. My polling booth was at the elite Shriram School and the people gathered in it looked like on their way to a Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting. Most of them, men, boys and girls, were wearing tee shirts with foreign messages emblazoned across their chests. It was like a Sunday morning at Sunnyvale, California. There were no chappaniyas. Just a lot of toned milk drinkers with gym toned muscles. It was mostly people like us.
The only exception seemed to be the gruff Haryana policeman at the entrance of booth 224 who asked: “vote dena hai?” I replied that I was just casing the joint to later capture it. (Like I have seen it done so many times before in Baghpat, Ballia and Bhagalpur.) He promptly looked away and told the couple behind that they cannot carry their mobile phones in. The husband then offered to go and give it to the driver, to that the wife asked: “how will we then call the car?” I interjected into the spousal conversation saying: “like the aam admi, you will have to walk for it!” At which point the cop, who was waiting to get back at me gruffly said: “No canvassing!”
I then entered the sanctum sanctorum of democracy, the polling booth. As I lined up in the short queue, I noticed that the classroom was a bit dirty with dust and paper strewn about. I told the polling officer; “bhaiyya yahan zara jhadoo lagwa dena!” To which he too replied; No canvassing Sir!”
But before I could get to get my ID verified against the list, the rather formidable looking lady ahead of me found her name was not listed. She protested loudly. The polling officials explained to her that if the name was not on the list, despite her proof of residence and ID, she couldn’t vote. She began to protest loudly that it was her right to vote and this was a life and death election. That she came to vote for the first time in her reasonably long life, to vote for Modi, who will save India. The polling officer kept repeating: “Madam no canvassing here!” She made a big mistake. As no sooner her intention was made known, some mango people jumped in and exclaimed to no one in general; “naam nahin hai to vote nahin hai!” The poor lady retreated promising to come back with her husband.
Then my turn came before the functionary. He ran down list number 176 and found my name at number 420. This was my turn to protest now. I told him that this seems to have been done deliberately and that this was how the corrupt Hooda government and Robert Vadra were getting back at me. To which he patiently replied: “No canvassing Sir!”
Mohan Guruswamy is a non-resident senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and based in India.