Archive for April, 2014

The ruling dispensation has managed to give Pune a bad name again. If Suresh Kalmadi’s shenanigans in the Commonwealth Games scam, bomb blasts, arrests of terrorists, attacks against students from other states, were not enough to embarrass Puneities, along comes the latest – the great election scam.

For the past decade the ruling party’s politicians have taken the citizens of Pune for a ride and the latest incident should be the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. One look at Pune’s newspapers today will give you the answer. Hundreds of thousands of voters found their names missing from the Pune parliamentary constituency list – in some cases, entire housing societies. And surprisingly, all these names were from areas predominantly known for their mass non-Congress vote banks. And was all this only because the candidate from the ruling party was terrified of losing the election?

The Times of India on Friday quoted the Pune Police Commissioner Satish Mathur as saying that between one and two lakh citizens were left stranded on Election Day, and even he could not vote! I personally know of voters who found their names missing and dutifully filled in the documents again and again, to still find their names missing from the final list when they went to vote. I also know of people living in Dahanukar Colony who complained over and over again to the officials concerned, about this anomaly, but their pleas were conveniently ignored. It’s pretty obvious now, why this was done. My wife submitted her documents and photograph from one constituency but her name was missing from the rolls. She found her name in another constituency! And law abiding citizens that they are, they took it on the chin and quietly went home. Had this been Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, some of these leaders and officials would have been dragged out on the streets and beaten black and blue!

I wouldn’t just call it an act of incompetence, but a deliberate attempt to subvert the only democratic practice the people have left to teach politicians a lesson. That BJP candidate Anil Shirole is planning a hunger strike to protest the mass deletions of voters’ names is an indication of who is behind the huge scam. Journalist and activist Vinita Deshmukh has filed an RTI in this regard and is also leading a protest in front of the collectorate. Shwetank Upadhyaya has stated on Facebook that “names of selected people” have been deleted from the voters’ list… “76,000 estimated voters from Kothrud alone.” If true, it is the biggest act of election fraud witnessed in the city.

Some friends of my wife told her how supporters of a party came to their home in Yerawada, with voting slips neatly folded with a thousand rupee note inside. One had also read how teachers of a particular educational institution belonging to a State minister were nabbed while they were distributing money to voters. Nothing new there, but still…

I was also told by journalist friend that the local administration turned around and asked the angry politicians and voters why they did not ensure that names were there. I know for a fact that many did and were assured there names would be on the list on election day. But that still begs the question, ‘why were over a lakh of voters deleted from the list?’. One also heard that a large number of AAP donors found their names missing.

The other issue is one of redrawing the boundaries of the constituency. Why, for example, is Hadapsar Assembly constituency moved to Shirur? What earthly reason do I have to suddenly vote for some candidate in Shirur, who I have never heard of, when I have lived all my life in Pune? Did the candidates who were contesting from Shirur even bother to visit my area to see how it was doing, or will they do so in the next five years? All these months we had been bombarded with messages to vote for Kadam, Ware, Shirole and Paigude. On voting day I looked at the EVM to discover that none of the above was on the list and some totally strange names were there instead, who I didn’t really know but was forced to vote for.

Shockingly, I found my name on the voters list in both Shirur and Pune constituencies, while my wife found her name in Wanowrie and not in Hadapsar, where we now live! I thought the whole point of the exercise was to vote for a candidate of MY CHOICE and not who the administration decides will be my candidate at the eleventh hour. So some candidate benefited from one vote which he wasn’t expecting, while I am, literally, forced to vote for a candidate who I don’t know from Adam, and will probably never see or will never be able to approach for the next five years.


I guess fate has a strange way of turning you away from something when it knows it’s going against your conscience. At least mine did. Election Day is the best day for this conscience thing to show its true colours. Do I vote for the candidate who I think is most eligible or the party which the rest of the country, my wife and son believe is going to sweep the polls? That is what went through my mind as I stepped into the polling booth.

When I left home my wife warned me to vote for the candidate who her entire family was supposedly voting for, in the Lok Sabha constituency. She couldn’t vote because despite all her efforts the EC refused to register her as a voter along with me – or so she thought!

I looked up the list of candidates on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), when I was in the polling booth. Flustered, I looked down the list, then I looked up, and down again. I couldn’t find the bugger’s name anywhere. Then I looked for the party symbol and couldn’t find that either. By then I was grinning and the lady sitting across the booth was staring at me suspiciously. My eyes then went to the top of the EVM, read the name of the constituency and I almost burst out laughing. THIS WAS NOT THE CONSTITUENCY I HAD BEEN VOTING FROM FOR THE PAST SO MANY TERMS!!

The Election Commission had moved me and (I am sure) quite a few others to another constituency and I hadn’t a frigging idea who the contestants were initially. Then I read the names carefully, and decided I might as well follow my conscience. I pressed the button for the party instead of the candidate and walked away, satisfied that I had voted as per my conscience and not because people were hounding me to do so for someone!

I, then, tweeted my experience about the change in constituency and imagine my shock, when a former colleague from the newspaper I worked with until recently, called to say that he read my tweet and did some investigating, only to find that I was registered as a voter in my old constituency as well. I asked him to check if my wife was a voter there and he said she was. So she rushed off to vote for the candidate of her choice from a constituency where she longer resided! So we are happy that we both voted for a party of our choice!

What I noticed was the sparse number of voters at both places. That is surprising considering all the hoopla about the so called wave. Closing voting figures show a little above 54vper cent polling in the city, which is quite dismal. I guess, Punekars deserve the crap they get from the politicians. There’s no point moaning about the terrible infrastructure, crappy transport system haphazard constructions, water supply etc etc if we don’t tell politicians on the one day that we get, that non-performers won’t get a second chance.

All this also makes me think why the Election Commission can’t do efficiently, the one job they are supposed to do, every five years. As the screen shots will show, I seem to have two fathers!


I don’t know what mother would have had to say to this, had she been alive today. I am sure it would have been something very sarcastic. And all I asked for was a change of address in my voter details!

voter icard details1

Someone informed me on twitter that a friend of his applied for Voter ID Card 6 times – he now has 12 cards that cannot be cancelled. And another student said she had been married off! Thank God we don’t have elections every four years. Otherwise the Election Commission might find me another family and a new identity!

The last time, I remember voting for Suresh Kalmadi because I thought he would do something for the city. He did in the initial years. Then he gave Pune something called the BRTS which made worse the already messed up transport system in the city and then gave the nation the Commonwealth Games that messed up his political career. So I’ve always felt that Kalmadi betrayed the trust we imposed in him. This time I guess if things end up in a mess, I won’t have a guilty conscience because I have nothing to do with the constituency I have been shoved into!

The other day, someone asked me why I had stopped blogging, because he felt the present moment would be the right time to express one’s opinion on the numerous issues surrounding us. To be honest, I had developed an aversion to writing these last few months for quite a few reasons. One of them was the politics. I love writing about politics, but it had turned into a no-holds-barred slanging match between those who hated Narendra Modi and those who admired him. Just like the infamous Dubya quote (“you’re either with us or against us”) Indian politics had been reduced to a slugfest and anyone interested in a third option was ridiculed, insulted and hounded into silence!

Some of my pro-Modi friends thought I was a Modi fan, just because I argued that the Gujarat violence happened in 2002 (and just like the horrific events in Delhi post the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984). Secondly, since no court in the land had either held him guilty or responsible for what happened in Gujarat, I was willing to move on and give him the chance to prove whether he was as efficient as some people thought he was. And that is when my friends who make up the anti-Modi club went after me. And frankly, their reaction was pretty vicious. People who I thought were rational in their thinking had suddenly become strangers. They were spewing venom at me, and that left me extremely disturbed.  That is why except for the occasional tweet I fell silent. I have never been extreme in my reactions or views on anything except maybe Indian cricket (!), so I was even more shocked by the reactions from people I thought I knew well. It was an eye-opener.

I also noticed that whenever I tweeted anything against the Congress it was either re-tweeted or ‘favourited’ . Good for me, because it increased my followers, but it also helped me understand, to a little extent, the mind of the people,  My antipathy to the Congress party is obvious and while I am not going to get into that now, I don’t buy into the Congress argument that the development in Gujarat is just a mirage.  Maybe it isn’t as high as Modi followers claim it is, but it couldn’t be worse than Uttar Pradesh or Bihar – two states that make me feel ashamed of being Indian. I have lived in both these states and both are a grim reminder of everything wrong with governance and politics in this country.

What politicians have done in these two states is nothing short of criminal and some of these fellows should rot in a jail for their misdemeanours. Unfortunately they still flourish because they feed off the poor and illiterate voter. Look at Odisha. People are still selling their children and other family members because they don’t have enough money to buy one square meal. When people living in villages feed of rats and cockroaches instead of rice and dal there is something fundamentally wrong with governance in the country. Take Maharashtra for instance. Farmers have been dying in Vidarbha by the dozens but yet politicians like Sharad Pawar shrug it away as something of little consequence. When dams dry up and drought looms on the horizon, ministers like Ajit Pawar ask if they should pee in the dams.  Who do I blame for that?

There is a section of liberals, fundamentalists and Modi-haters who may rant on about the fact that he doesn’t deserve to be prime minister for the sins of Gujarat, but unfortunately (for them), Modi seems to be the majority’s choice and if majority opinions translate into votes then Modi it will be – whether we like it or not. In other words, we get the politician and the government we deserve.

To me, Narendra Modi is no better or worse than any other politician this country has had since 1947. There have been many others like him who have pretended that they had no hand in riots that erupted in their States.  There have been so many politicians and prime ministers who have either engineered caste and religious riots in the country or have done nothing when riots occurred, and have then shed crocodile tears for the dead. Modi is just another one of the same breed.

That is why my admiration for Arvind Kejriwal has grown. A year ago no one in his right mind would have thought that Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party would be taken seriously by the political class or the country’s media. Today he is being spoken of as a future prime minister – a bit far-fetched, I think, but what the hell – no harm in dreaming! Here have been many politicians who made a

Why has he suddenly become a political force, and more importantly, someone who is being feared by the political class? The feeling I get is they don’t really know what he’ll do next. They thought he would protest time and again and go back to governing, like they do. Instead, he spent a night on the street! They thought he would protest for his JanLokpal Bill and go back to his CM’s cabin. Instead, he put in his papers. How many chief ministers would do that? Heck, how many politicians would quit on principle on any issue in this country? When was the last time one did? Madhavrao Scindia, when he was civil aviation minister, following an air crash on December 5, 1992?

Look at what happened in the aftermath of the latest submarine disaster? The Navy chief quit, but the minister stuck to his chair like a leech, and what is worse is that the prime minister defended him. While he accepted that the Navy chief had done the right thing by resigning, he defended his minister for not resigning! But no one thought much about all that, because they were more interested in running down Kejriwal and his party.  And all these jibes and taunts from the media and rivals about his style of politicking have only given Kejriwal the publicity he so badly wanted to bring him onto the national stage.

To me, it is quite simple. Anyone who can make life miserable for the likes of Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam and the rest, gets my total support! Whatever may be the fate of Kejriwal and his fledgling party in these elections, one has to admit that he has brought in something different from the run-of-the-mill politicians we have been used to all these years. If he is showing them up for the crooks they have been all these years, good for the voter. So more power to the aam aadmi!!