I heard the loud blare of the news anchor at 7:00am, shrilling over the background score of the news channel. I wiped my eyes in a daze wondering why my father was glued to the TV set so early in the morning, until it took me a few minutes to realize that it was the election result day. No wonder everyone was up and about and sipping on the morning tea listening to analysis after analysis as numbers under different political parties gained momentum at the bottom of the screen.
Welcome to counting day in India.
The frenzy, curiosity and intellectual acumen is on full display in our homes on a number of occasions. These include, amongst many, watching a cricket match, watching a debate, watching a fight on the street, a family get together and finally, while watching the election results.
Alright, so we are the world’s largest democracy and most aptly extremely proud about it. If you just take a look at the figures, that the election commission needs to deal with while organizing elections in India, you will be left scratching your head in awe. In the 2014 national elections, there were 919452 polling stations, where 814.5million voters used the 1878306 voting machines to choose candidates from 300 political parties. Phew! Now that is something!
Elections in India have always surprised and awed me. Besides the numbers and of course, the flaws that are a part of this humongous exercise, India is still considered to be one of the best examples of democracy. For an independent nation, that is just about 70 odd years old, it is an achievement of sorts to boast of elections and successfully continue the democratic system without any military or autocratic interference. A look around the rest of world, and you will know how this is truly in many ways, a miracle, in spite of its many shortcomings.
However, what strikes best are the speeches made post-election results or when the results are gradually unveiling. On this particular morning, when the results for the much followed Gujarat state elections were unraveling, I could not help but have my interest tuned to what all the panelist and experts had to say. I am this way every time I see the results on TV.
It is suddenly, that political science becomes the most interesting study for those few hours. Every candidate or spoke person feels obliged to the voter, irrespective of whether they are winning or not. The voter is king, because results are the ultimate say the voter has. The respect in words and deeds that the spoke persons display on news channel is reverential and almost divine. The voter is the one with the halo and the party is ready to shower gratitude or bend their heads in shameful penance. Either way, it feels good as a collective group to watch numbers flicker and feel for once in control over the fate of our leaders, even when we do not actually vote (state elections.)
And as the numbers dip and rise, we get goose bumps; our hearts beat a tad bit faster. We gloat in awe and superiority, whereas, at times we want to cheer and clap.
Questions range from why there are no laddoos made in the party camps, to the more serious ones, as to why has a party actually lose. The management of parties and workers suddenly starts making sense and it feels like we are listening and learning the intellectual nuances of a varied and deep phenomenon.
Every democratic country has its election fun fare. The US sees it during its presidential elections, the debates, speeches, the first ladies and so on. European nations see them in their referendums as well; however, Indian elections are more to do about color, grandeur, eloquence and numbers. The voter turnouts in the last state elections of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh were touted as one of the highest. Images of old, sick, disabled, bridal voters standing in long queues awaiting their turn has always been a sight to behold. And so do the images of colored faces, sweets handed and drums playing in the background when a party wins to the bare deserted office images of the lost party.
The result day in India is a great leveler of sorts. It is the day, when voters truly understand their impact and worth. The glory is short lived and not more than a few hours and we feel like normal citizen ( the ones that go to work, are stuck in traffic, are breathing polluted air, that throng in huge numbers on picnic spots for holidays and so on…you get the drift). The day votes are counted, we are just not ordinary people going about our daily needs, doing what we generally always do. We are special, the special feeling quite akin to when we watch the Republic Day Parade, or watch an Indian perform well in sports or business. We feel wanted, respected and in turn, we feel a bit of vanity on having accomplished this massive task of ably electing a government.
For one of the most populated nation, India takes its elections seriously. There is banter, news and a general spirited feeling of political discourse that reach frenzy and pinnacle on the day votes are counted and results declared. The exercise is as much political as well as social, which makes elections and counting votes a gala or festival of sorts.