Friday, May 07, 2010

An Anti-Climatic Vote

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 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 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!!


  1. Here it took me 2 hours in winding queues on a hot afternoon in a narrow, dingy, dark building where a few forms were filled and a slip given... and was told to wait for the announcement of the date when the actual card would be distributed. And just how would I be informed, by post.'ll have to scan the newspapers for the next few months. hi-tech I say!!!Four months later the dates were announced, another hour in the queue and I was officially, legally eligible to vote in India. Whew!! Just explaining it has tired me out.

  2. you went and voted....we too had a chance but we skipped it...mainly because of the fact that all the three are against immigration hmmmpppp

    Why would I cast a vote for people who don't want me in their country ? :P

  3. Valid point, LP...I had very facile reasons for voting..One I didnt give a damn about the elections, two I wanted to see how elections happened here, and three I wanted to be a small part of history by being there when UK elected its first green MP..a very smart woman called Caroline Lucas from Brighton..:)

  4. i have voted twice for UP elections....plz no conclusions yet, i'm not the reason why Mayawati came into power.....

    it's strange they let you vote even though u rn't a citizen....actually i didn't understand that whole para where you mentioned the rules and all....i mean ok we are from the commonwealth countries.....but voting the countries government is big......

  5. Sree: I know...I went through that ordeal to get my Voter ID..and it did me no good as my name wasn't there in the electoral list in the last polls. My dad had to struggle to ensure it was there, in the hope that if I do get assigned to Kerala for the elections, I'll get to vote..But then I spent my time in Gondia and Baramati in sub-50s temperature chasing politicians!!

  6. Hitesh: It's a crazy system. As part of the Commonwealthe, living 6 months in UK qualifies you for a vote. The truth is had I not been automatically registered and sent my voting card, I wouldn't have gone and voted. Few people know about this..But what's the point..the double standards involved is amazing..We struggle to get visas to come to UK, to study you have to pay steep international fees, but they guarantee you the right to vote..hilarious, isn't it? Btw, thanks for the links...has been my lifeline for World Cup viewing..:)

  7. You took a photo of the ballot paper! that OK?...Do find out...I love your posts so much, I would hate you Musing from elsewhere!

  8. Nalini: There was literally not even a fly in the polling booth and no signs anywhere that photography prohibited after this point...and then again, what are mobile cameras for..;) I'm not going to be polling for people I'm so disconnected from in my life again. Wanted a little e-souvenir..:)

  9. You got to vote without being a citizen? That's so weird! I haven't been recognised in India so have never voted. But I'm in the process of Australian citizenship so by the next federal elections, I hope to vote for the first time ever since turning 18! =P

  10. Hi Psych Babbler: Nice to see you in my e-home..:) Well, know what, it looks like registering to vote in UK is much easier than trying that in India. Here, they register you automatically based on your nationality and all you need to do is show up. There you could have a valid voters id and what not, and still find your name missing from the electoral list..:) Good luck in the land of Oz..;)

  11. interesting information.I did not think that the commonwealth thing still held good..other than for games and such.

  12. Yeah anjana, some day when you have the time you must look into what are our legal rights as Commonwealth citizens. Must say, that when it comes to paying fees and applying for visas, we become just another country..and suddenly come elections, we are 'more equal' than students from the non-Commonwealth..strange isn't it?

  13. Gordon Brown had his moments. I liked the poise shown by all the three as the contest got over..unlike politicians in our land who would fight till the last day before vacating their official quarters or paying their dues..

  14. Nice post and need of the hour.

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