: From being bitter political rivals during elections, they turned into thick friends during the long wait for the counting.
The agents of political parties, tasked with guarding the electronic voting machines, struck such a level of friendship that they bought food for each other, battled mosquitoes together and overcame all odds as a united front during the 30-day waiting period at the counting centre at the Government College of Technology in Coimbatore.
And, they even joked about floating a political party for the next elections.
“From one another, we, the 45 agents, who belong to different political parties, have learnt so much about politics and electioneering that we have started discussing our next course of political action,” jokes M. Prabhu, an agent for the AIADMK's Kavundampalayam candidate V.C. Aarukutti.
“The contestants know only about their respective constituencies. But we agents have gained so much information from our friends about all the 10 constituencies that we are election-ready,” he quips.
“All of us have bonded so well that we want the Election Commission to extend the period between polling and counting to 60 days in the next election,” adds Mr. Prabhu, the youngest of the lot.
The agents have turned thick friends that they address each other ‘mama-machan' in chaste Kongu Tamil. “Such is our friendship,” says A. Palraj, who is Mr. Prabhu's best friend and an agent of the DMK's Coimbatore South candidate Pongalur N. Palanisamy.
The first few days it was not so. “We viewed the DMK representatives with suspicion. They being agents of the ruling party candidates, we remained guarded. Soon things changed and casual interactions turned into meaningful exchanges between friends,” recalls A. Natarajan, an agent for AIADMK's Coimbatore South Constituency R. Duraisamy.
Within the first few days of their duty of maintaining a vigil on the ballot boxes, the agents also learnt that they had to join hands to fight a major force at the counting centre: mosquitoes. “The mosquitoes did not distinguish between AIADMK agents, DMK agents, Congress agents and representatives of Independents. It equally troubled all. We had no choice but come together to fight,” recalls C. Boopalan, another agent of Mr. Palanisamy.
The agents of all the parties, without a bit of hesitation, credit AIADMK candidate from Coimbatore South Constituency R. Duraisamy with playing a vital role in cementing the friendship. Mr. Duraisamy says that two days after he began buying lunch, tea and snacks for the AIADMK agents, he extended it to the DMK and Congress agents as well. “I could not distinguish them from my men.” Soon, other candidates took a cue and began taking turns to provide food to the agents. “We got biryani, full meals with ice cream and almost anything we wanted,” the agents say.
“All of us have bonded so well that we want the EC to extend the period between polling and counting to 60 days in the next election”