So much to love about elections!

12 June,2024 06:52 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Mayank Shekhar

Randomly ruminating on the polls, maybe because we haven’t thanked the Indian voter enough for the entertainment

The LS poll 2024 threw up some unexpected results

Surely, you've heard that Abraham Lincoln adage to do with politics - about how you can't fool all of the people, all of the time. But all is not what you need, right?

In elections, you only have to convince or fool some of the people, all of the time, or all of the people, some of the time - for the politician/party to get through! That's how first-past-the-post system works (sadly or not).

Slight shift in vote-share can cause monumental turnaround in seat numbers - making predictions, with populations so vast, a potentially fool-hardy exercise, sometimes.

Is that what makes following Indian election leads/results, ball by ball, like a sport, on D-day, such an anticipated spectacle? Yup.

Consider that no victor in Indian elections - whether during Nehru's times, when India was practically a single-party polity; even when Rajiv Gandhi's Congress picked up the maximum-ever 414 seats in 1984; let alone Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 2019 BJP wave - has ever touched a 50 per cent vote-share.

That tells you, in every general election, without exception, number of voters in the opposition have inevitably been larger than those for India's ruling party. The former will always show up on the ground.

A tired Pappu Yadav catches up on sleep during campaigning in Purnea. Pic/Mayank Shekhar

Unless I speak too soon, this summarily puts to rest fears of a de facto dictatorship in India. On the condition, of course, that elections held in the future remain relatively free. Dissent is naturally embedded in a somewhat fair democracy.

Frankly, I encounter too many privileged blokes, who claim to be "apolitical" by nature. This is probably a hopeless/cynical response to how power corrupts - although it's possibly the other way around. Corruptible are most attracted to power. So, you just let them be.

Also, upper classes have little stake in the wider, progressively widening Indian electorate, demanding housing, toilets, grains, roads, doles, loans, reservations, guarantees, that must hopefully extend to schools and hospitals, someday.

That said, I find claims of being "apolitical" to be untrue. It's impossible to be apolitical, when every move you make - down to whether you take train, rick, Uber or Ferrari to work - is also a political choice. Everything personal is political. We just don't call it that.

What the privileged mean is they don't care for daily, gossipy partisan politics. Their interest in which, you can gauge from news engagement stats, skyrockets during Indian elections still.

Why? Because until then, politicians get viewed as a class who, in turn, see citizens as a crowd. Elections is the only the time the two meet face-to-face. And politics becomes about people per se.

Even as, almost overnight, several amateurs attain advanced, Yogendra Yadav level understanding of religion, region, caste math/matrix, further reducing public into alphabet soups.

Such as Modi's GYAN (Gareeb, Yuva, Anna-daata, meaning farmers, Nari-shakti); Lalu's MY-BAAP (Muslim-Yadav, Backwards, Alp Sankhyak, Aadhi Population, as in women), etc.

How do the actual polls play out then? Of course, through a campaign - a word we only otherwise associate with war, and advertising. Evidently, elections are both.

Technically, indefatigable PM Modi has campaigned daily for a decade! Be that as it may, adding to it the constant, he-said-she-said shrill from all ends - everything apparently comes down to the final mile/months.

Confusing everyone, including political parties, so much that nobody can convincingly tell WTF is going on, if general elections, with hindsight, are anything as fascinating as 2024, deemed foregone, until results.

Wherein I know from a source that during the campaign, Rahul Gandhi (unnecessarily nicknamed ‘Pappu') himself was aiming for 80 seats for Congress (he bagged 99!).

Things actually get way more intriguing if, by sheer luck, you'd happen to drop in to, say, Faizabad/Ayodhya, that voted against BJP, after Ram Temple!

I had the most serendipitous fun in Purnea, Bihar, where, according to a source, Congress had decided to field one, Pappu Singh.

Another Pappu, i.e. Pappu Yadav, had recently joined Congress. He may have thought the Pappu on the Cong ticket was him.

Only, that seat in the sharing arrangement within INDIA bloc went to RJD. Which was determined, at any cost, not to field alleged extortionist plus Robinhood Prince, Pappu Yadav.

Who, on the other hand, had been nurturing this constituency over three-four years, after he lost from neighbouring Madhepura in both general and Assembly elections in 2019, 2020.

Anybody in Purnea could call/page Pappu, ex-don, on his personal phone, if they needed help - often with accessing healthcare, and sundry favours. During COVID-19, for instance, he decided to charter buses to bring Purnea students back from Kota, Rajasthan.

Pappu stood as an Independent. During the campaign, his followers created quite a ruckus at RJD's road shows - such that, as per my sources, the party ploughed all their monetary resources, last-minute, to check the egomania.

Pappu's wife couldn't canvass for him, since she's a Rajya Sabha MP from Congress - the party that Pappu had joined, but was taking on!

His main opponent was from Nitish Kumar's JD(U), within BJP-led NDA. PM Modi personally came down to campaign against Pappu. Purnea's affluent, who voted for him, I figured, wouldn't instantly tell me so.

Pappu alone beat JD(U), BJP, RJD, Congress. Elections is serious stuff, I know. It's not entertainment. I think we haven't thanked the public for providing enough of it, though! Hope, it stays this way.

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
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