The election is coming!

Will Donald win again? No the election is in India not the USA but you’d be forgiven for thinking that politicians are much the same the world over. No not because of corruption, that’s true, or supporting their mates in business, that’s also true or being primarily focused on self interest rather than the good of the community, tick tick tick. All probably true. . It’s also about how they choose to focus on often non-issues to polarise the community, exaggerate them to create even more divisions of us and them and shift us even more to the right.

Well we’ve known an election is on the cards here because…

The local paper for weeks on end has had a headline complete with the PM’s photo , no wait a minute it’s an ad paid for by the govt to tell us how successful they are. Now the date has been set, the model code of conduct is in place and such crafty practices are not allowed.

We in Mysore also have the honour of supplying indelible ink for the elections. Once painted on someone’s finger it stops them biting a second time!

This is all getting exciting!

Banana Republic

Am I seeing things or is that a straight banana?

First let’s talk about Banana Republics. Well actually that’s a bit unfair. The state that’s probably got most bananas is the least like a banana republic. Generally over the years they’ve had reasonably coherent and stable governance although they’re maybe losing their way more recently. That’s Kerala.

Back to the point.

We’re in Karnataka, where we had a state election last week.

The result was ‘hung’ as they say between three parties: the BJP, Congress and JDS with no one party having an overall majority. The Governor (until appointed he was an active BJP politician, which is not allowed but let’s forget that, he is however supposed to be independent and above party politics), who has authority in these matters, swore in the leader of the BJP (yes, his party, no no no he’s independent remember) after the election.

This is the party with the largest number of elected representatives (called MLAs) but they did NOT have an overall majority. Got it? Yeddyurappa, the leader was given fifteen days to prove he had an overall majority, which he hasn’t ….

Woah, hang on a minute the two other parties with a combined strength had an overall majority and one was the incumbent ie previous Government. They also have signed letters from the MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) , as proof. So surely they were invited to set up the Government as a coalition? Er, no.

The BJP leader was not only sworn in he will not have a cabinet but is already making decisions on revenue expenditure, without even putting together a budget or knowing the financial situation and he’s got fifteen days to prove he’s got an overall majority. But remember, he hasn’t got an overall majority. So how will he solve that problem?

Ta ra ta ra

buy Them? Surely not.

The wonderful, patient, trusting (actually they don’t trust their politicians) people of Karnataka, registered, listened, deliberated, ok some were bribed, queued up, to cast their vote for a person carrying some sticks, a flower or a hand (symbols of each party as so many of the voters are illiterate) got a mark on their finger so they couldn’t vote twice…… used their precious fought-for- vote to elect MLAs who represented specific parties.

It’s useful having parties, by being a member of a party it helps us understand what they stand for in terms of policies, values, future of the state, that sort of thing …. but hang on, if they we’re to switch to a different political party immediately after the election…. for money? Or a job in government. Doesn’t that sort of invalidate the system? Is this real?

Wait …. is it a bird? Is it a plane? Noooooo it’s Super- Court, well Supreme Court….


The Court takes action…..

and forces the BJP to prove they can form a government. The BJP chief Minister has now just one day to bribe as many of the MLAs as possible to get his overall majority. Shameful.

So that’s how the largest democracy in the world is currently working out here in the south. So how about the longer established democracies, they working well? A shining beacon for the others to copy? Er well no, Donald being Donald in the Useless US is making a right old pigs ear of things but it’s a mistake to think that. It’s going to plan, it’s working, he’s shifting that society and the administration where he wants it to be, if only he could find the napkin he wrote the plan on, he might have an idea how he wants it to end.

What about the mother of all Parliaments? Well the disunited Britland has the most incompetent Government and opposition, and what’s called the second house is causing too much trouble messing up the mess that is Brexit so the Governments party is going to increase its membership so that it votes its way. Marvellous, now that’s a Banana Republic of the cold cold north.

Equally shameful.

It’s Election time

Spot the differences with your elections!

The local paper has news about politicians bribing locals to vote for them. Police/army checkpoints are in the look out for large amounts of money, as in the first news item. Alternatively offering chickens!

But it’s a secret vote so voters can accept bribes, maybe from more than one party and vote for whoever they want! 😉

A common practice is to show images of politicians alongside projects they claim to have initiated. During election campaigns they have to be covered as seen here at a shop for selling generic drugs at cut price. An initiative of the Modi Government.

So what difference does it make?

what’s in a name? part 2

So what to do next?

remembering that our eventual aim is to get Manjula a passport, but let’s build up to the big tasks and start with something more straightforward

a simple first challenge was to get a PAN card for Manjula. You get a PAN card when you register to pay taxes. Country needs people to pay taxes so you’d expect it to be relatively easy. Well it, sort of, is and I’ve got one (as has the company), so it can’t be that difficult, can it?

pics of ID cards have been removed

This would be important as would be to learn from the process of obtaining it, we’d need to get Manjula’s various ID’s in line (rather like ducks) and the card itself would be a valuable addition to helping create a formal identity suited to the modern age 😉 yeh, right! what are we waiting for?

So the man to manage the process would be Ganesh, my very able accountant. He copes with my idiosyncratic accounting practices, so is nothing, if not flexible and adaptable.


But of course, the balloon (ie me, do check our business card) is ‘the fixer’ or is it gopher?


First stage is to get her three forms of ID that show her photo, name, Date of Birth and address… now let me just find them out…….

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.

Half life finished

Manjula voted today for the first time in her life. A momentous occasion. Well done Manj!

Check the photo of Manj. Here’s the mark of the indelible ink on her thumb to prove she’s voted and can’t therefore vote a second time.


Of course, I’m not allowed to tell you her voting preference or her age but she received her very first voting ID just this week and declared that she’d got one at this late stage i.e. with ‘half life finished‘ so better late than never, eh?

We arrived by scooter 30 mins before the voting station was due to open, at the school close to where Manjula used to live. [Trumpets Blaring] We were waiting for her mother and father to join us. This was a serious family outing.


There were a few people hanging around, a lady selling milk at the corner and a foreigner (me). The first sign of official life was the arrival of the army. Punjabis who were down from Delhi. They and the Police begin by insisting that there was no selling or loitering (aka innocently hanging around), cars or two wheelers parked within 200 metres of the school. The lady selling bags of milk at the corner was clearly not happy but she had to go. I was obviously not loitering. I was however sitting on a bench on the corner well within the exclusion zone but as a foreigner I’d got my ‘get out of jail free/community chest card from Monopoly’ and as I’d bonded with the sergeant, so there was no issue. I was allowed to stay.


Manj went over to a scrum of people to check whether she was on the list and able to vote. She was, hooray! Her mum was less fortunate (and now I’ve hear that there were many other people like her) she had her card but was not on the official list. So unable to vote. Manj’s mum came round to the house later on. She had found her name on the list held by a man loitering 201 metres down the road so was able to vote. (Just don’t ask as I’ve no idea,, India is an enigma)


But why had it taken so long for Manj to be able to vote?

Who knows?

The fact that she hasn’t had an ID card of any description until very recently reveals such a lot. The world’s biggest democracy has some difficulties reaching all the communities to enable them to use their vote. Understandable in many ways. There are two thirds of 1.3 billion people eligible to vote.  A poor woman initially from a rural background is likely to find it most difficult.

Its especially difficult the poorer you are and in particular for women.

She now has Aadhaar card (general ID), BPL Card, Election card, and also very importantly another means of ID which is her bank account. So what does it reveal? Has something changed?

Something has changed in her life and in general.

People are now much more conscious of the need to get an ID card. They may need them to get a bank account which in turn will allow them access to benefits ranging from subsidised gas, health services and foodstuffs for those Below Poverty Line (BPL). The introduction of the Aadhaar, a general ID card, supposedly being issued to all the population has had a significant impact. Prior to this Manjula just had her school leaving certificate. A critical document for especially poor people but still not a lot of use.

It’s pretty clear (and shocking) that a woman’s official identity is linked with a man: father, husband, step father, employer. Ask Manj for her name and she doesn’t know what to say beyond Manjula. Her father died, she’s divorced from her husband, and mum remarried so not to put to fine a point on it… I’m now probably the most significant man in her life!!!

Manjula as ever, the ‘together’ woman that she is, has with her mum and step dad, got out there and asserted her rights.


I’ve tried to do my little bit. Hence she now has a bank account and regular payments of her monthly measly pay into her account. All of it contributes to helping her become more ‘official’ and who knows where that might lead? One day she might even get a passport and do some international travelling 😉