नेपाली भाषा र साहित्यको सम्पूर्ण पत्रिका

The price of a vote

Chovar Blues Mobile Size
Parshu Shrestha

As the election was coming near, the leaders and cadres of political parties increased their frequency of visit to the doors of people. The candidates appealed to the individuals for casting their ‘priceless’ votes for their victory. And it was assumed that this time the public had been much more conscious than before that the people would not show their blind fidelity to their political parties if the candidates were not found to be good and honest. A common sense among the public was heard to have developed that while choosing the electorates for the local government only the able ones must be elected even if it needed cross-voting. The intellectuals of the society were happy that Janata, the people, had been aware of their power. They commented in their interviews in the print and online media that it was the indication that the society had been ready for the change, and the loktantra seemed to have been mature.

Sanam, a teacher, who thought himself a conscious and judicious member of his society had also no objection to the idea of the intellectuals and political analysts. As far as he remembered, he had never been a member of any political party till date. Not because he did not like any political party but because he disliked the idea of being a jhole, a servile, cadre. He always thought that politics should be focused on addressing the problems of the citizens. He also believed that a corrupted politician should have no place in any party. For him, any party which supported the ideas of democracy, liberty, human rights, and good governance would be eligible for getting his vote in the election. Therefore, for him, there was no necessity to be a diehard supporter of any political party.

He had three opportunities to vote in the past, but he was never in favour of only a particular party for casting his priceless vote. He always saw the personality of the candidates and chose the best one on the basis of their honesty. However, he was fully aware that most people around him did not think and act like him. For them, a particular political party would always be more important than the candidates themselves. They would like to be taken as dedicated members of the party. Therefore, they never did mind who got the ticket for candidacy from their party. Even the corrupted and notorious people would be ok for them after their selection as candidates. He always hated such people.

Also in the coming election, scheduled for the end of the month, he was not going to change his attitude towards the political parties and their leaders. He would surely decide whom to vote once each party had declared its candidates in his locality. Therefore, he had not attended any rally of any political party. He had also not chanted any slogan for or against any political party. For him, peace and progress in the society was more important than being a political cadre.

He knew clearly the pros and cons of being a person with his kind of thoughts and behaviour. Unlike the cadres, he could take part in political discussions without any pride or prejudice. He could freely accept anyone who thought positively for the good of society, and was honest and non-corrupted. However, on many occasions, he had been frustrated or felt humiliated and ignored just because he did not belong to any particular party. He was not trusted by any leader as their own. As a result, he had been sidelined or rendered helpless on many occasions of his career.

sagarmani mobile size

He felt lonely on many occasions. Since he was not a member of any political party, he was doubted by most of his colleagues and friends. They felt uneasy with his presence. Perhaps they thought their secrecy would be revealed, so they did not prefer to talk at his presence. Therefore, he usually found himself personally unsociable.

The other day, in school canteen, Mr Chaudhary, one of his colleagues, brought into the affair of election campaigns going on in his locality. He said for the last one month his villagers had been busy almost every day in attending feasts being organized by various political parties. Only the previous night he had attended a feast organized by a candidate for ward chairman. The locals had had enough of meat delicacies with alcohol. Not only the feasts, most of his villagers had also earned a little money from the candidates. “When the candidates come to ask for votes,” he said, “a ward chairman candidate generally gives a one-thousand-rupee note and a ward committee member a five-hundred-rupee note to each voter.” According to him, by this time, each voter might have already earned almost ten thousand rupees. “So, my villagers wish the elections would come every month,” he said laughing. Sanam thought his colleague might have been exaggerating the situation; he might not have been totally lying, though.

The changing scenario of the elections had worried a true conscious voter like him who had recently been more frustrated with corrupted political practices. The day the candidates were declared, they started collecting donations from various persons, organizations, and businessmen. They called the donation ‘voluntary’ but most donors felt ‘forced’. When they started ‘door-to-door’ campaigns for asking votes to people, the cadres had Dashain with two courses of pulao-rice with mutton or chicken plus daily wages. No party, whatever it called itself, the representatives of the proletariats or the messiah of the oppressed people, could keep itself away from the unjustified fanfare for the publicity of its candidates.

The night before the voting day, Sanam had a meeting with his mother and wife about whom to vote. Almost all-party candidates had come to ask for their votes during their campaigns. Some of them were their neighbours or close-ties. Therefore, they could not open up publicly whom they would vote. Anyway, they had decided to vote for the best candidates among all.

All three departed from their house to the voting centre to cast their votes. It was around eight in the morning and the sun was not so hot. Two long queues had already been formed. Separate lines for males and females. They stood on their respective lines.

A lot of candidates were coming along the queues with their hands folded in ‘Namaste’ gesture and grinning to the voters. Each candidate was asking for ‘a priceless vote’ to the voters.

Sanam had to wait for two hours before his turn for voting came. By the time he was inside the voting booth, the sun had been much hotter than before. His wife and mother were also out of his sight. The mobile phone was prohibited inside. Therefore, he could not contact and know about their whereabout until he came out of the booth.

When he phoned them after vote, he knew that his mother had arrived home and was cooking lunch. His wife had gone to the bazaar. Therefore, he came back home and started watching live telecast of election on the television channels. The government had declared the voting day as public holiday, so he had nothing else to do.

In the afternoon, at around 3 o’clock, he thought of going to the bazaar for some shopping. He saw many people in groups walking here and there with a jumbo bottle of Cocacola or Sprite soft drinks in their hands. The bazaar was more crowded than usual. He knew that some of them were going to the voting booths located at a nearby school and some were coming back. What he could not understand was why so many people were carrying the bottles. Out of curiosity, he asked to a gentleman who said, “The party candidates are distributing these bottles of soft drinks to the voters from their tents outside the gate of the voting booths. Did you not get one?”

Sanam shook his head left and right to indicate ‘NO’. The gentleman was astonished at him. Then, he said, “There are also lunch serving facilities at hotels run by the candidates for each voter after he or she has cast vote.” The man told him that all parties had their own bookings of hotels where the voters could enjoy mutton and chicken with drinks. He had also had his lunch with mutton at a hotel.

Sanam’s face was overcast with sadness when he returned home from the market. His mother and wife had also heard about the distribution of soft drinks and lunch facilities.

“I think we are the only ones who cast votes for nothing today.” His wife said to him in humour, “Some of my friends told they had enjoyed the lunch at hotels and even received jumbo packs of cold drinks.”

His mother also said, “At least, we should have known about that.”

Sanam had no willingness to talk to them. So, he went to bed without having his dinner that evening.

(Parshu Shrestha, 1981, lives in Itahari, teaches English, and writes short stories.)