Count-‘less’ days

It was all over in a flash, the polls. And more than a fortnight has passed, since.

The results are another three weeks away. I am not really bothered about the candidates who are on RAC nor their party leaders with their fingers crossed. The general public, for their part, though anxious, having performed their karmic democratic duty, are back to their daily grind. As a columnist, my selfish self pity is all about the media mills coming to a grinding halt for lack of grist.

Ever since the EC announced elections (TN, my concern) for a compressed and stressful 30 days, we have survived and thrived solely on the cacophony of this democratic festival. On 18 April, the din touched a crescendo and climaxed and then there was nothing. The present prolonged 35-day calm after the storm is truly unbearable for our ilk.

It resembles the familiar wait for your Deepavali cracker to blow off after you have lighted it. How I wish post 23 May the storm resumes! We derive our daily diet by fishing in troubled political waters. Forget the nation’s and parties’, our fate will be known once the lid comes off the Pandora’s boxes, rather, the Pandora’s machines, gathering dust now. Whatever, but nothing like poll time, I tell you!

It is not easy for the EC conducting this 7-phase elections across a varied topography of this huge land, reaching into every nook and cranny and amidst numerous challenges posed by politicos wanting to win by hook or by crook. EC’s honourable intent that the World’s largest democracy finds its voice through the vote is laudable. That said, I will still hold the EC guilty of screwing up the professional life of TN media folk. Polls in May here would have kept our mills running for one month longer and this has been short circuited. Our minutes of fame and relevance ended too soon and too abruptly.

Between 17 March and 18 April, we were the toast of every party, the political and the nocturnal ones alike, with every Kuppan, Suppan and his Appan pestering us on every issue, particularly our enlightened view on who will win, how, where and even by what margin. Of course, we never had any view, much less enlightened and were as ignorant and clueless as the seeker.

But the very idea that many thought we knew or possessed some insightful inside information was ego-tickling. We fancied ourselves as all-knowing Arnabs and so the present ‘flight’ of our favourite fancy is frightening and frustrating. Forget about listening to and learning of our profound projections, many have even forgotten they have voted. I curse the Election Commissioner to forthwith turn into an editor.

The 2014 LS polls were 9-phased. In TN, the timing was such that we had extra 15 days’ ‘work’, if you get the drift. Sure, now we have four Assembly by-polls 19 May but somehow they have failed to even lift up our limp mind which has gone into a limbo. But getting back to multi-phased polls, one thing seems ironical and beats me. Not long ago, in the days of paper ballots and their boxes, when voting and counting were supposed to be cumbersome, the national election process was completed in short time-frames.

The advent of EVMs should have logically made this process not just efficient and reliable but also quick. But with the passing of every poll, the period seems only to stretch. Having got used to getting the results before the ink and interest dried up, the long-drawn countdown to the counting day makes little sense. With the searing summer and soaring mercury scorching us, it is not just the precious groundwater that is evaporating but also our precarious patience.

But not all are idling like us, the great poll prophets and self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong. Despite the Supreme Court itself declaring the EVMs as safe and tamper-proof, political parties are not taking any chances. All of them have instructed their cadre to keep a day-and-night vigil in the premises, mostly schools and colleges, where the EVMs are already imprisoned by tight police security and EC monitoring.

The paranoia has only increased in TN with a woman tahsildar making an allegedly unauthorised entry and spending over three hours in a documents room at a counting centre in Madurai. The tahsildar was promptly suspended and the HC ordered the transfer of the Madurai Collector. Some controversy that, to keep us awake. But the slumber-in-waiting is already taking over with our fraternity back to dozing mode while waiting for the result.

So, with the voting far behind and the outcome far away, it is no surprise that having spun yarn relentlessly pre-poll, it is yawn time post-poll.

Good night.

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