Joseph’s Maiden Vote to the Parliament

“Pappa, I am going to cast my maiden vote to the parliament tomorrow. But whom to vote is the problem now,” Joseph told his father, Thomas.

“Good, my son. Thus you are going to become part of the administration of the country. Since ours is a democratic country we citizens are to be very vigilant in electing our representatives. You are politically educated and so I need not suggest any candidate’s name,” Thomas replied.

Thomas is a leading Advocate in the High Court. His son, Joseph is a B.Tech. student in the Govt. Engineering College at Kochi. Thomas’ wife, Mercy is a professor in a government college at Kochi itself. They have a daughter, Jane, who is studying in higher secondary school.

“Pappa, do you think democracy is the best form of government? How far is our democracy from the original concept? Where do you find equality, fraternity and liberty in our country? Isn’t communism better than this?” Joseph continued.

“My son, communism is a great philosophy as democracy is. But it is impractical and utopian in this materialistic world. Man is innate selfish and hence none works for the common welfare. That’s the reason why it failed in Russia and the East European countries. Do you think China is a pure communist country? No. In fact, it is capitalistic just like western capitalistic countries. Joseph, it’s time for me to go the court. We shall discuss the matter in detail when I come back,” Thomas replied. He got into his Maruthi car and drove away.

Joseph is enjoying his vacation after his third semester examinations. Jane is getting ready to go to her school. Mercy, dressed in a blue sari, came near her son and said, “Son, I am going to the college. See that the front door is locked always because thieves may come at any time.” “Ma, please wait. I am also coming,” Jane cried. “Come soon. It’s already late,” Mercy replied.

Joseph, all alone in the house, started thinking about elections, democracy, corruption etc. Long sixty four years have passed since the country got its independence. What is there in the country to be proud of? Number two in population? Where is the growth those politicians and administrators are boasting of? India is becoming a super power in growth! Will outrun America and Japan! Aren’t the political mafia eye washing the innocent, illiterate masses? The UN study reports India’s per capita income as Rs. 20. Isn’t the gap between the rich and the poor becoming wider and wider? Could these politicians reduce illiteracy of the masses? Aren’t they actually fostering ignorance and illiteracy of the villagers as to exploit them maximum? Do they ever think of the dreams of the youth here? Where are the employment opportunities when they pass out from their educational institutions? Joseph became restless as he voyaged through these dark realities. He shut his eyes and remained on his chair on the front verandah trying to cool him down. Suddenly a group of men in white attire flocked to the house with election notices in their hands.

“We have come with the voter’s slips. Where are father and mother?” one man with the voters list asked.

“They have gone for their jobs,” Joseph replied.

They gave him three slips—father’s mother’s and Joseph’s. “Joseph, forget not to vote for our candidate,” another man said.

“Why should I vote for your candidate? What’s your Front doing at the Centre? 2G Spectrum corruption, Adarsh Housing corruption, Commonwealth Games corruption! How many crores?  Three lakh crore rupees! Whose money is it? Poor farmers and labours! Isn’t your government trying to protect the criminal ministers? If the money thus lost is retrieved from them the country could feed the poor people for next five years! Why doesn’t the government reveal the names of the account holders in foreign banks who have amassed five hundred billion dollars through unfair means? Even after forty years, why is it that Lokpal Bill is not passed in the parliament? Thanks to Anna Hazare, the movement has started now. A second independence struggle is the need of the day. I won’t vote for your candidate and thus promote corruption,” Joseph exploded. His mind was just a sea mounting with violent waves flinging pebbles at the shore. The campaigners were literally stunned. They had nothing to say. “Ok, boy you may vote to any one you like,” one of them whispered and they fled away from the house.

Joseph felt much relieved and relaxed. He laughed loudly and told himself, “Well done Joseph! You can’t tell these to the prime minister or the president.” He got into the drawing room shutting the front door. He planned to go to the library to return the books and take a few more. As he was dressing he heard the sound of the door bell. Immediately he put a shirt on and opened the front door. Oh! Another group of election campaigners!

“We have got the slips,” Joseph told them with an impatient tone.

“Take our slips also and vote to our candidate,” one of them said.

“You are the people who are playing the communal card. India is a secular state and all religions have equal rights here. No preference for majority or minority. There is nothing called ethnic or national heritage. In this multicultural society religious sentiments should give way to national sentiments or even global sentiments,” Joseph was rhetoric and he saw the group retreating. Someone was saying, “This boy is mad. Don’t waste our time here.”

Joseph again laughed and congratulated himself. He took the library books and went in the direction of the library. On the way he found the parish priest in front of the church.

“Joseph, where are you going?”

“To the library, Father. Father, I don’t understand why the Church is interfering in politics. Why is such a pastoral letter read in all the churches? Let the laymen vote to anyone they like. It is dangerous to mix politics with religion,” Joseph said.

“Joseph, we have to elect men who protect our faith. Communists are atheists and they can’t be elected. That’s why such a letter was read in the churches,” the priest replied.

“Father, ours is a secular state and no MP can act against secularism. There is the Supreme Court to look into such matters. If members are elected on the basis of religion rather than their merits, the parliament will be a pandemonium of religious fanatics. Parliament is a place to discuss national issues,” Joseph retorted.

“I am none to argument with you, Joseph. I was asked to read the pastoral letter and I did. That’s all,” the priest had nothing else to tell him.

Bidding good bye to the priest, Joseph continued his walk. He took some new books from the library and returned home. After lunch he dived into the books and time went unaware.  His ma returned from the college and he told the day’s proceedings. Mercy reprimanded him for talking roughly to the campaigners and the priest.

“My son, you don’t know how these irrational people will react. They are all crazy of the election and are ready to go to any extreme for their party and the candidate,” Mercy reminded him.

Thomas arrived home at seven in the evening. Joseph told his father how he had reacted to the campaigners and priest. Thomas too cautioned of his over reactions. “Joseph, corruption is part of modern democracy. Only through a mass movement this social evil can be wiped out. It is futile to fight against it singlehandedly. We do need a government here. What alternative is there for democracy? Monarchy? Don’t you see the civil war that took place in Egypt and now going on in Libya, Syria and Yemen where Monarchy prevails?” Thomas explained.

“But Pappa, presidential form of democracy as we find in America is far better than ours. There is less corruption there I believe,” Joseph replied.

“True. But our politicians may not opt for it because they can’t all exploit the people as they are doing now,” Thomas responded.

“Pappa, to whom shall I vote? I don’t find anyone worth,” Joseph said.

“Son, at the polling station your mind will tell to whom you shall vote. Act accordingly,” Thomas concluded.

Supper being over they went to sleep. Joseph’s mind was disturbed still. The thought of maiden vote was biting him like a mosquito. Tired of drinking sufficient blood from him the mosquito flew away and Sleep conquered him at midnight.

“Joseph, get up. It’s already seven in the morning. You have to cast your maiden vote. Get ready soon before there is heavy rush at the booth,” Mercy awoke him.

Thomas, Mercy and Joseph went to the polling station by walk. The station was only half a kilometer away. There wasn’t a long queue. Only some fifteen voters. After father’s and mother’s vote, Joseph got into the station. He gave the slip to the first polling officer. His name was read aloud to the polling agents and other polling officers. His signature was obtained on the register and indelible ink was marked on the left forefinger. The third polling officer pressed the switch of the ballot machine’s control unit and asked Joseph to move to the ballot unit placed in the voting compartment. Joseph went through the names of the candidates and their symbols on the voting machine. Whom to vote? He asked his mind. His mind was not responding. Reports of the multibillion corruptions by the central ministers went through his mind like on a movie. He became very unrest.

“What are you doing there? Press the button and quit,” the presiding officer told him loudly. Joseph still remained like a statue. “Hey, can’t you hear what I say? Vote and go out,” the presiding officer shouted.

“I don’t want to cast my vote. Where is the button for it?” Joseph exploded. “There is no button for it,” getting from his seat the presiding officer replied angrily.

“I don’t want to vote for traitors,” Joseph roared. “Political mafia Murdabad! Anna Hazare Zindabad! (Down with political mafia! Long live Anna Hazare) Political mafia Murdabad! Anna Hazare Zindabad!” raising his right fist up Joseph thundered and ran out of the station. His slogan echoed from the neighbouring hills.

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