At 7AM this morning, Britain began its mammoth excercise...The process of Voting a new government in...Now, I was wondering why today, I chose to post on the British elections and not the death sentence given to Kasab? I was in Mumbai covering the 26/11 siege - watching the Taj burning up-close and personal.. So there is definitely a sense of closure for me, though I am not naive to imagine that this sentence would mean that tomorrow he would be made to pay for the terror he and his now-dead partners unleashed on Mumbai.
But today, I dedicate some time to the British elections. The election seemed to me like a staid grand aunt of the flashy American Presidential elections...While the whole world had put aside considerable media space and discussion time to Obama's historical ascendancy to power, except in the UK, there seems hardly much interest in the election of a new government..
Frankly speaking, across Britain too, I hardly see much excitement....Between current PM Gordon Brown, Lib- Dem leader Nick Clegg and the blue-eyed boy of the Tories, David Cameron - they tried whipping up some interest...Three head-to-head debates relayed on national television was pretty well-watched, with the leaders proving to be good orators who gave as good as they got. But like British films which seem like poor step-sisters of flashy Hollywood, Browleggameron's ( that's my term for their combined crowd-pulling power) box-office skills are hardly anything to write home about...
So here's my personal experience...About a month ago, I got a registration slip by mail, that seemed to audaciously suggest to me that I am a Registered Voter in Britain....My first impulse was to junk it in the rubbish bin along with other spam mails...And then, I took a closer look..wait it said my polling booth is a building inside the campus and they had my name and address right...With my mouth in a little O, I walked back home wondering which schizophrenic self of me had applied for a British citizenship for them to notify me as a registered voter...
And then I found out most of my friends had also received it...The feeling of self importance, deflated sufficiently, I went about figuring out how we became eligible to vote in the General Elections that will decide who will form the next government...The answer: We all belonged to the erstwhile Pax Brittanica...now the Commonwealth..So the Canadians and the Indians and the Malaysians and the Zimbabweans were all empowered by 'our country of a year' to vote in their leaders...Foreigner when it came to paying to the category in which we pay University Fees or apply for student visas, but important enough to be bestowed the 'honour' of participating in voting in a new government!!
Silly, isn't it? Considering that we aren't going to be around to bear the fruits of our 'labour'....but then I would be exaggerating, calling it labour...There were no long lines anywhere...most polling booths have roughly between 200-500 people registered to vote there..Like the BBC informed me, Some were in pubs - practical idea, isn't it? Imagine heading to the pub after work, taking two minutes to cast your ballot and then drinking to a vote cast....Hmmm..wonder how that would work in India if polling booths were to be set in the toddy and arrack shops...I can imagine a lot of drunkards sitting out, 'exhausted' from the effort of hanging around the 'polling booth'!!!
I Voted....What are the odds of being in a country in the year of General Elections and having your registration card delivered to you - limiting your effort to participate in the democratic process to walking five minutes to a polling booth set up in a university building and walking out about 30seconds later - ballot cast!!! The ballot paper looked like the ones printed at college elections, with a stubby graphite pencil dangling on the side of the booth...No EVMS here...No standing in queues in hot hot sun...no having indelible ink marking your finger for nearly two months post the elections or in my particular case, running behind politicians at their polling booth for lame sound bites saying 'We are confident of coming to power!!!'
I am sitting up through the night, watching an exemplary BBC coverage - measured and prim like the English - for unlike in India where the counting day is different from the polling day...the counting here is right after polling stops at 10PM!!
Interesting indeed....for me, it's a small slice of historic memorablia for me...
No. of times that I have voted in India - One ( Not proud of it,mind you, but when you are a journalist covering General Elections since the time I turned of legal age to vote, you will find yourself in Gondia or rural Andhra Pradesh on voting day, while your vote is in a small school in little Kochi)
No. of times voted in UK - One
The Statistics have a very skewed way of saying a story doesn't it?
P.S I just heard that I have been part of a historic vote that voted the first MP in for Green Party from Brighton!!