Voting for the first time, for sure, brings the exhilaration and enthusiasm within you. You wish for a change to take place in your constituency, your district, your state and your country. The tenure of the current Bihar Legislative Assembly is scheduled to end on November 29, 2020. Voting overall is not difficult; you just have to be vigilant and patient enough. The party symbol plays a great role and you have to remember who you should vote for, the alliance after the results could turn into nothingness. It is the party that matters, the candidate contesting from a party and his background, the cases pending against her/him matters. Prior leading towards my first (Legislative Assembly) voting experience, I would like to mention that the exhilaration and enthusiasm for this election came with a lot of thoughtfulness, preparedness and precautions which the voters of Bihar had had to consider deliberately.
Bihar is the first state to witness the Assembly Election amid the ongoing of Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in major disruptions to the health sector and put the global economy, education sector in serious jeopardy. Also, it is to be noted that this is for the first time, the Commission has extended the postal ballot facility to people aged over 85 years (and to COVID-19 suspects and patients). The election will be held in three phases (out of which two phases for a total of 243 seats; the Phase I for 71 seats on October 28, 2020 (completed), the Phase II for 94 seats on November 3 (completed), 2020 and the Phase III for the remaining 78 seats will be held on November 7, 2020.
There is a Voter Guide which is provided to the public by Election Commission of India during elections. This time, however, this ‘VOTER GUIDE: TOWARDS A COVID-SAFE ELECTION’ was exceptional and with some added details therein. There were several protocols which were to be followed namely, carrying the masks, gloves, sanitizers, maintaining social distancing, et cetera. And, of course, the usual instructions such as carrying any of the approved identity cards and voter slip to the polling station. Also, it was mentioned not to carry any gadgets inside the room where you will cast your vote.
Social distancing was well maintained inside the polling station where I went to cast my vote but not outside. Not everyone was wearing a mask -some due to their own negligent and irresponsible behaviour and a few because they really did not have the privilege to buy it, unlike us. The area outside the polling station was flooded with people. A few metres away one could see the youth was riding the bike holding the flags of XYZ political party. Since on poll day, a holiday is declared the city delves into silence. All you can, then, hear is the birds chirping, vehicles’ clunking noises, and the neighbours chattering. Today one could also hear the chanting of XYZ political party’s name as well, and possibly of ABC political party’s name, too.
Casting my first vote today was basically a funny and somewhere lousy experience. While I was heading towards the Matdaan Kendra, people on the way were obnoxiously staring at me as if they would scan and find out who I would be voting for. I cannot really ignore when someone glares at me or passes comment on me, sometimes you have to glare back and speak up and that is what I did today. Now, I went to the polling station to cast my vote. I followed all the instructions. However, I clicked photos there (not selfies), and before taking photos I have taken permission of the officer there on duty. He had asked me that the media persons are not allowed, to which I had to legit explain I am just a student and nothing else. Now I took a photo and two officers yet again approached and asked that the media persons are not allowed to take photos here. The officer who allowed me to take photos for my personal use came and told them that I am not associated with any press, et cetera and that ‘am just a student. Now while casting my vote I was looking at the options, so obviously it takes you a few seconds, right? Meanwhile, I have been asked out of the blue not to take photos and I smiled, told them my mobile is in my bag which is kept outside, I understand that taking photos inside the room where votes are cast is not allowed and that ‘am simply casting my vote.
The process was easy and merely took three to five minutes. This much time you can give, at least, else criticizing the government while sitting on the couch is nothing but trash-talking. Everything was fast (and that is when you have to be patient), the officer checked my temperature with the use of an infrared forehead thermometer gun, my voter slip was checked and I was asked to wait in the queue (while maintaining the social distance). Once a voter came out of the room where the vote is cast, I had to enter that room. The next step was to get my voter slip checked again, my identity was confirmed, and a receipt was given to me after noting my serial number and my signature. I was asked to remove my glove, thereby inking my finger with edible ink. Now came the major part where one should know what button she/he is going to press. As it is said, ‘You are just one click away’. Casting your vote is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Anyway, the voter now presses the button against the chosen candidate to vote on the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), after which a red light will glow with a beep sound. The voter can also check the printed paper slip through the glass on the Voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) window. And Woah! Done.
The decision to hold elections in times when Bihar is facing a double whammy of both the Covid-19 and floods (a few districts hit by the flood are still recovering) was highly condemned by the opposition. However, the votes have been cast and Phase III will be held on November 7, 2020. The counting of votes will take place on November 10, 2020, and the results will be awaited by all of us with a sense of hopefulness for a better tomorrow and qualitative governance. A bundle of promises is made to you when the elections approach, before that neither the opposition nor the incumbent government comes to your rescue. Crucial factors such as education, health and employment had to be taken into consideration and I hope the voters this time have cast their votes on that very basis. Covid-19 has exposed how much we are below and above in maintaining the health infrastructures across the state and the country. It has also taken a dig at the employment crisis which has been existing since long. It is time that the candidate contesting elections should focus on our education, health and employment opportunities rather than dividing the citizens based on religion, caste and making a place for themselves in theRajneeti. And so, should the electors be vigilant enough to remind the government in power that they have the accountability for everything going wrong in the state. Together with the participation of citizens and the government, there is a scope for the betterment. In Anees Jung’s moving words, ”I believe in the land and know it will find its way.”
I will remember this first-time voting experience of mine for years to come. In whichever part of this world I will be, I will always come to Bihar and cast my vote. This is my responsibility. This is my right.