More on elections

a follow up and part two of half life finished

This is a pretty impressive election. Just look at some of the facts, complements of the Diplomat:

India’s upcoming general election will be the largest democratic event in history, with more than 814 million people entitled to vote to decide the country’s 16th government. This, however, is not the only record that will be broken when the world’s largest democracy goes to the polls. According to the Centre for Media Studies, Indian politicians will spend as much as $4.9 billion during the electoral contest, which will end in May. The estimate makes this year’s general election the second most expensive of all time, behind only the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign in which, according to the U.S. presidential commission, $7 billion was spent.

The sheer scale of the electoral exercise is unprecedented. Almost two thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people are eligible to vote – 100 million more than in 2009 – and 96% of these have already been equipped with electoral ID cards. In nine polling days spread across five weeks, the world’s largest electorate will visit 930,000 polling booths to cast their votes using 1.7 million electronic voting machines. 11 million personnel, including members of the army, will be deployed to assist with the elections, whilst a further 5.5 million civilians will be employed to manage the voting process.

Back to the extraordinary ordinary in Mysore.

As you may now be beginning to notice….Manjula is very much my touchstone and helps keeps my ‘ear to the ground’.

As these election for lok Sabah (parliament) are upon us, I’m reminded of last years Karnataka state elections. Manjula was on holiday. I was astonished to hear that her mother came back to Mysore a journey of some hours on an uncomfortable bus in order to place her vote. I was impressed. I thought back to my own studies in politics and the importance we gave to those who’d struggled to give us the vote. It was the sort of commitment that those who’d fought for the vote would have been proud. But you know, in India, nothing is as you’d expect.

Cary, a good friend of some six years, burst my reality bubble.

He explained that political parties pay people to vote for them. Manjula’s mum had travelled back to Mysore as she had been paid to vote for a particular party.

It also why we’ve found, over the last few weeks, checkpoints manned by police and election officials, popping up on many of the roads outside the city. Cars are stopped, searched and when found, large amounts of money or gifts that can’t be properly accounted for are confiscated as it’s assumed they are to be to be used as bribes.

It seems that it is a common practice, at least in state elections, to bribe the electorate to vote for a particular party and in manj’s mum’s case it was 500 Rs. A significant sum for this poor lady who might be lucky, when she found work, to get 200 Rs for a days work. I’m reliably informed there is no bribe money around for this national election.

Another more subtle technique, for state elections, is to promise gifts to the poorer sections of the community , sewing machines, cycles for school children etc and give them once elected, so it influences the vote and it’s paid from the coffers of the state government. Normal politics I suppose, we’re all part of that particular system.

Over dinner this evening, it’s a last supper as Manj goes on holiday (again!) tomorrow. Manj happened to mention that the pressing lady (she operates out of a hut down the road and presses our clothes with an enormous, heavy charcoal driven iron) had ‘earned’ 2,000 Rs by promising to vote for four different political parties in last year’s state elections. Hilarious.

So who has the last laugh?

The poor accept the money, conscientiously vote and press the buttons (they vote at electronic voting machines) for the party they’d wanted to vote for anyway.

People have to survive as best they can.

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