As far as the Government of India is concerned, both my husband and I are dead. Or missing. Or we have shifted out of Bombay. I am in the midst of an existential crisis as we speak and along with me, two lac other Mumbaikars.
Like many other citizens of the world’s largest electoral democracy, I showed up at the polling booth in North Central Mumbai armed with my Voter ID this morning only to be told that neither the spouse’s name nor mine was on the electoral roll.
“So does this mean that even though I have a Voter’s ID, I cannot vote?” I asked the person manning the booth incredulously.
He nods his head. “Not possible madam.”
“I have a voter’s id, a passport and even an Aadhar card but I am being denied my right to vote” I was belligerent.
“Ham kya karega, aap kyuon bhadak rahey hain? Aap bada saab sey baat karo na” the diminutive chap at the booth suggested helplessly.
I could tell that I was not the only one who got left out because I could overhear a conversation between the Pandu on duty and an angry Sikh family whose members’ names are not on the Voters List for the first time in forty years.
I returned home determined to fix this matter and immediately went online to look for my name on the Voters List of North Central Mumbai.
The website failed to load due to some technical error. I sent an SMS to 9869889966 (the number provided by the Election Commission) to see if I was on any voters list at all but as expected I did not get an SMS back. The fault dear Brutus, is in our stars.
Not one to take no for an answer easily, I turned to the social media and started to outrage. I rang the husband to inform him that both of us did not exist. He assumed I was about to embark on a UG Krishnamurthy inspired discourse, which is not unusual for me and informed me that he was in a meeting and did not have time for philosophical banter (ooh that reminded me of Tarun Tejpal somehow).
I had no choice but to cut to the chase and inform him about our fate at the Electoral office. He was in denial. “Did you look carefully?”
Then he was ANGRY. Yes, you got it; we were following the Keble-Ross model of the five stages of grief. “This bloody country does not deserve my vote,” he said screaming on the phone. “I am NEVER voting again.”
As if you have a choice. You cannot vote again even if you want to until your name shows up on that list.
Up next was the stage of BARGAINING. On recommendation of the husband’s uncle we downloaded Form 6 from the election commission’s website and after filling in our particulars we optimistically drove towards booth # 77. We met more wannabe voters who had been denied a chance to vote at the voting centre. The good people working on behalf of the EC seemed pretty clueless themselves and after much persuasion they resignedly asked us to head to the EC office at a short distance from the voting booth.
This did not feel normal. I felt like I was chasing a pair of limited edition Louboutin shoes. Exercising my right to vote ought to have been easier than this. The phrase ‘dance of the Indian democracy’ began to take on a whole new meaning for me. I figured that it was, after all, a euphemistic phrase implying the dance of the enthusiastic Indian voter.
At the office, a throng of irate voters surrounded one harassed EC official who was in no position to oblige them with a convincing answer, perhaps because the poor chap was as perplexed about this situation as the next person.
“Sar, I am sawrrry but you cannot vote in this election, this form is useless today. This Form 6 A is to be submitted in case you want to vote next time,” he informed us.
It was frustrating to come back home without an inked finger after all the forethought and deliberation that had gone into figuring out which party was more deserving of our votes. But we have ACCEPTED out fate. More importantly I have accepted that the selfie I was so keen to post on FB will have to be given a miss. All my friends are flashing their inked fingers like war ribbons and badges of honour and poor me, I feel so last season.
Now I hear that Deepak Parikh and Ram Jethmalani did not find their name on the voters list either. Someone just tweeted that they are filing a PIL against the EC. I am not sure anything will come out of it. All I know is that my civil rights as a citizen have been violated and that this seems like a carefully planned mistake when you are told that there were at least 2 lac other voters like me who were unable to put their choices on paper. I can only hope that in due course some heads will roll. They ought to.
In the meanwhile EC should have had this slogan for Lok Sabha 2014
AB KI BAAR VOTERS LIST SEY UTAAR