‘Bhooth’ Number 202?

Polling agents who turned up for duty at the Booth Number 202 in Chamarajpet were flabbergasted by the location. Tucked away in a corner of a burial ground, it was malodorous and infested with flies and mosquitoes. An official, reeking of mosquito repellent, said: “We never imagined a polling booth in a burial ground: we were only told it was a corporation property. It is very depressing.” Polling agents too complained for good measure but voters were more blasé. Mangala, waiting for her turn to cast her ballot, said that though it wasn’t a desirable location, it wasn’t going to stop her from voting.

Centenarian keeps poll date

Rukmini Devi Sisodia, who turned 104 last month, has lost track of how many elections she has voted in. She hasn’t missed a single one — be it a local poll or the one that chooses those who represent us in New Delhi — ever since she moved to Bangalore in 1972. At around noon on Sunday, her family brought her in a wheelchair to the Avenue Road polling booth, part of the Gandhinagar Assembly constituency. She didn’t say who she voted for but said she grilled all the major candidates before she made her decision. “They came [to my house] and told me what they will do for my area,” she said in chaste Rajasthani. Ask her why she chose to exercise her vote, and she’s quick: “I was given the power to vote, and it is a blessing. So, I will vote till I can.” Even back in Rajasthan, where her late husband worked as a revenue official, she never missed a chance to vote. Election issues, for her are simple: they have been water, cleanliness and electricity for the past eight decades.

North-easterners have their say

In areas such as Neelsandra, Vannarpet and Ejipura — all of which were in the news last year when thousands of northeast Indians left the city following communal tensions — Bangaloreans, who are from the north-eastern states, turned up in large numbers to vote. Pushpa Pradhan, a beautician who hails from Siliguri, said: “After what happened last year, we are all very keen to cast our vote.” Richard Ralte a student said: “After the attacks many people came to us and said our people should participate more in society. Voting is one way of doing that.”

Watery start

Officials manning booth number 189 in Nanjamba Agrahara, coming under Chamarajpet Assembly constituency, had a very strenuous start for their election work, as the polling booth was inundated with rainwater seeping in from the broken asbestos sheet ceiling. “The first thing we did was to drain out the water and make the booth fit for polling,” an official said. In fact, the 10 ft by 10 ft cramped booth, in Anganwadi Deena Dalithara Sangha, had so little space that the presiding officer and the polling agents shared the same table, which had been borrowed from a neighbour’s residence. Except for a few chairs, almost all the furniture has been borrowed from Good Samaritans in the neighbourhood. In Bommanahalli, in the absence of proper desks, a metal bed was used as polling help desks.

Voters’ slip shortage

Many booths in the city faced voters’ slip shortage by early afternoon, and the mobile units deployed for election duty went around replenishing them. “Each bundle had 250 slips and some booths that had more than 1,000 votes faced shortage,” said an official. “As and when the polling officials informed us of possible shortage, we supplied them with additional slips. But there was no panic anywhere.”

A significant ‘other’

Transgenders made a statement by voting under the ‘Other’ category for the first time these elections. Christy Raj (26) of Sanjaynagar is one such voter.

“It is for the first time that transgenders have been recognised. Usually male-to-female transgenders are seen as women.”

Standing outside polling booth no. 224 in Byatarayanapura constituency, Yaana (29) and her friends Keerthi (31) and Savitha (33) proudly flashed their inked fingers. “This is the first time that we are voting. We are very glad that we finally have identity proof,” said Ms. Yaana, as she posed for the camera with her voter identity card.

Hoping that the next government would be considerate to the needs of transgenders, she said, “We have exercised our right and duty by voting. So we have the moral right to ask the winning candidate to work for our welfare.”

Keerthi also added that having the right to vote was the first step to bringing transgenders into the mainstream. However, all three said they chose to vote, not as ‘Other’ but as female. “We cannot avail several facilities as ‘Other’. So we decided that it was best to have an identity proof that identifies us as females,” said Savitha.

EPIC retort

It is fairly routine for politicians to behave like they are above the rules and regulations applicable to the common man. This is particularly apparent on polling day when political leaders expect officials to roll out the red carpet for them at the polling station.

Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s attitude was no different at his Varuna constituency polling station. So, when the presiding officer at the station asked him to furnish his electors photo ID card, he was understandably taken aback.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly did not have his EPIC with him and looked harried for a minute. He, however, found his MLA ID card — one of the 23 alternative documents accepted by the Election Commission as valid as ID proof — and was duly allowed to cast his vote.

Superstition or coincidence?

The former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his family attracted attention for their rather curious behaviour at the polling station at Paduvalahippe in Holenarsipur taluk. It took Mr. Deve Gowda a good 10 minutes to get down from his car, getting people gathered there to wonder if he was waiting for an auspicious time to enter the polling booth. But no, he was just busy flipping through a book as his family waited for him.

As for his son H.D. Revanna, he decided to adjust the position of the table on which the EVM was placed, just as he had done in the previous Assembly elections. He shifted the table towards a window, suggesting perhaps that he was trying to get some better light. However, a few onlookers pointed out that Mr. Revanna, a firm believer in vastu, was uncomfortable with its original placement.

Vote before vows

Sunday was to be one of the most important days in the lives of businessman Nahmoodulla Tandur and school teacher Farath Banu. They were to get married. But not before they exercised their voting rights.

The bride and the groom, dressed in their ceremonial attire, made quite an impression as they arrived at the polling station in the Hubli-Dharwad East Assembly constituency. While Mr. Tandur exercised his franchise at the polling station on the government hospital premises at Makandar Galli, Ms. Banu cast her vote at the Government Urdu School booth in the adjoining locality.

Their ‘nikah’ was scheduled to take place at 11.45 a.m., but, Mr. Tandur told reporters that they preferred to vote before their wedding as it might have been difficult for them to find the time once the ceremony began.

Voting takes a holiday here

Even by noon, the voter turnout in Ullal town in Mangalore constituency was quite low. Stalls teemed with party workers, but voters were few and far between. When asked why this was so when the urban local body elections conducted around two months ago had seen a high turnout in Ullal, many party workers at the booths attributed it to voting day being on Sunday. “People are busy with family functions on Sunday. There are weddings to attend and children have holidays,” said a worker.

What probably buttresses this theory is that, in and around Ullal, at least five multipurpose halls were seen by this correspondent, teeming with people. This theory was echoed by booth workers even in Konaje town, where marriage halls were packed to capacity.