Sidhu, Sreesanth & Shoaib in TN elections

The World Cup was a major disappointment.

Because, here in Tamil Nadu, it clashed with the election campaigning, which has been far more interesting and attractive for two major reasons:

1)      There has been no Navjot Singh Sidhu to contend with

2)      Come to think of it, the first reason itself is worthy of being valued twice

Quite seriously, World Cup can never hope to match the tingling excitement of an M Karunanidhi-J Jayalalithaa face-off. It will make, in comparison, an India-Pakistan cricket encounter seem like the casual capers of Tom and Jerry.

Imagine an Indian team, maverically comprised only of 11 Sreesanths, taking on the Pakistan XI made up solely of Shoaib Akhtars. You know what to expect: You will need an ICC Disciplinary Committee in full sitting to decide on who won the toss.  This will be a minor microcosm of Karuna-Jaya clash.

And this poll, the two are battling it out on the blood-and-sweat issue of freebies. Both the parties that these two stalwarts head have promised almost everything under the sun as an electoral sop. In Tamil Nadu, it’s technically possible for an individual to not even attempt any meaningful work, and still live off prosperously on the fat of the government. In other words, every individual here in Tamil Nadu, is a potential Vice-President of the nation.

With stuff like TV, mixies and grinders being offered totally gratis, what could be the economic implication for the State? While letting the experts ponder over that, we will merely slip in this interesting fiscal statistic: The officially declared richest person in the electoral fray is M Vasanthakumar, the owner of a company that retails such appliances.

Tamil Nadu, unlike the Hindi-belt States, boasts of high-literacy and knowledgeable masses, and hence the political debates are on evolved and exalted matters: For instance, Vijayakanth’s alleged drinking habit.

If you go by the campaign so far, this poll is a virtual referendum on his reported ‘bacchanalian proclivities’. (Yes, if he loses in the election he will be Constitutionally barred from imbibing liquor within the boundaries of India). We will know the people’s verdict on this nationally-important issue on 13th May. Yes, that is a full 30 days after the election (on 13th April) is over.

Why does the Election Commission need so much time to declare the result of polls in Tamil Nadu? Well, it wants the elections in West Bengal to get over. Quite logical nah? Left to its own mechanism, the Election Commission would have even waited for the elections in El Salvador and Djibouti to be completed, too. It would have also held on till Libya made up its mind on democracy and polls.  But before we start to get all snarky, let us remember that the Constitution has mandated the Election Commission only to conduct the polls. Declaration of results, I suppose, is a free sop it extends to us.

Anyway, after the hard toil of non-stop electioneering, the 30-day interregnum is a god-sent period for the top leaders to relax and recoup, so that by the time the results are out the losers will have the renewed energy for the most important post-poll event: Blaming the EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines). The winners, I think, will begin to promise free EVMs for everyone.

These days the Election Commission has also banned the declaration of results of Opinion Polls (in the last few days to the election) as a large-hearted courtesy to the pollsters, who, as far as I know, never seem to get the results right. Thanks to the Election Commission’s stringent rule, pollsters are still in business. Of course, the best method in this trade is the one championed by Prannoy Roy: Conduct the poll surveys after the official verdict is out and confirm to the people that they had indeed voted so-and-so to power. Psephology is the name for this evolved science.

This time around, the Election Commission is maintaining an eagle-eyed vigil on poll spending. For instance, during outstation campaigning, if a candidate runs out of clean underwear and buys a fresh set, as per rules, it will be deemed as election expense and the candidate will have to provide a valid reason as to why he needed the underwear in the first place. The candidate, if he gets elected, perhaps defrays this cost from the constituency development fund.

Paid news is another area that the Election Commission is focussing its energies on. Every political news report and poll feature is solemnly scanned, and in case of doubts, the suspects are immediately called for rigorous questioning. It is quite likely that, after reading this, the Election Commission will summon both Shoaib Akhtar and Sreesanth for queries as to how much they paid me to appear in the headline of this piece. The EC knows there has to be a scandal somewhere for Sreesanth and Shoaib to make the headlines.

But even the mighty Election Commission will think twice before calling up Sidhu for questioning.  If it did, I think, the TN election results will be ready only the next decade.