Beyond a social fever | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 13, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:22 AM, December 13, 2016

Beyond a social fever

Elections are a fascinating spectacle, to say the least, and this is not in reference to any tax dodging on a massive scale, deleted emails of humongous volume, amazing tales of surreptitious groping (the 'victims' fading into silence after being overrun by the electoral college), a greenhorn candidate upending a seasoned politician, and strange bedfellows beyond one's border. For in the end all that matters is whether voters believe in an agenda that the winning candidate is likely to fulfil. But, there seems to be no end to the controversies in a truly bitter build-up with allegations being rife that a little digital assistance was provided by sworn enemies.

The drama is no less spectacular in balloting held to select office-bearers of even non-political entities in our society. There may be logic in the contention that many such elections are a squandering of money that could be better utilised, a sheer waste of time and full of lies. One may reflect on the price that we have to pay to uphold democracy.

People hold contrasting opinions about elections; they are either a most wonderful mela or a disgusting tamasha, depending usually upon the outcome. For the rest of us it is fabulous entertainment with no request for repeat performance.

A candidate calling for extra security before the elections finds no need for such measures after a favourable mandate, speechifying that people are the 'source of all power'. You may dispute if you are languishing from scarcity of electricity in your workplace and/or residence. The victor will declare at a victory rally that everything, from security to attendance, was perfect, that many belonging to even the opposition camp voted for him because they disliked the latest haircut of his opponent.

On the other hand, the defeated candidates see huge holes in the 'engineering' and, in spite of socio-political rivalry and monetary disparity among them, they feel collectively cheated. They are certain that on a more level playing field they could score more goals. A few are certain of victory, if only the Election Commissioner was not standing under the goalpost. They are confident of a reversal of the results even if the number of votes needs to swing by tens of thousands.

At the voter's end, a matter of great irritation (pain is a better word) for me, and dare I say I speak for most of you, is the seemingly endless series of text messages that often are delivered with a tinkle way deep into the night. (Why should I silent mode my mobile for fear of predators in the garb of good Samaritans? An emergency could always turn up.) SMS after SMS outlining the candidates' angelic character and superlative ambitions (for your sake, mind you) make voters wonder in the wee hours of dawn whether an alternative technique could be developed by which one could tick in favour of more than one candidate jostling for the same post. Alas! That is not allowed in democracy. And who said we have not made our sacrifices to establish the right of the people?

Then there are emails that are virtually an extension of the short messages. You are flooded with information about the candidate that you already knew, especially that he is a great guy with loads of experience for the post or with enough enthusiasm to make up for the lack of it. A colourful poster with a makeover portrait of often a stranger seeking blessings is attached to the mails. The only smiling mortal in this encounter is the person on the poster.

Phone calls are a greater menace because you have to listen to the aspirant; his pleadings like molten metal pouring down your ear. He has not bothered to call you over the last seven and half years although you had as many birthdays, and now all of a sudden you are the best person second to his wife, which could also be wrong if she was not a voter in that particular election. Or, to be fair to him, you two had never come across each other. In the latter scenario, and it has happened to me, his reaction on meeting you on voting day is a big blank, although he sounded so warm (molten metal is) over telephone. Earlier he was talking to a number, as you will find similar cordiality among operators vending a plot of land in Ashkona or lucrative membership of an exclusive health club.

Ah Facebook! Social media has changed the very strategy of electioneering, especially in clubs, associations, and trade organisations. The poster with the matinee look adds a touch of personality. The constant flow of 'likes' and comments remind you that you had indeed befriended the candidate or his friend or his friend's friends; they can all tag you. Perhaps you have never really thanked FB for the tremendous network of F&F and acquaintances and the unmet that it helps to build, yet the 'untag' option will make you feel tremendously gratified.

The final nail that might make you decide not to vote at all is a letter by postal service; no prizes for guessing from who. On it is glued your name and address, including the membership number of the organisation/club from which the desperate tick-seeker has gleaned the location of your abode/office. The same four-colour poster is now printed on A4. You wonder whether a guy is worth your nod if he needs telling you in all possible forms of media that he should be elected. That is when you decide to book a ticket to stay outside your station on the D-day.

In case you want to practice your democratic right, the final encounter will take place just outside the booths where candidates will extend their hand. Shake them if only to disguise your intention. If you feel that the hand of any candidate is cold and in a limp, know oh mortal that that particular candidate already knows.

Other than some actors overdoing (because no one wants to be accused of underdoing after being defeated), social elections have a positive side to them, which comment is reserved for the few among the elected who dedicate their time and energy to serve in a committee over their tenure. For the chosen others it was an ego drive and an additional line in their CV.


The writer is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd, a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.

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