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"Madam, you have already voted"

By Kausalya Narayanan
Last updated on: April 21, 2004 15:06 IST
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I walked to my polling booth at noon on Tuesday, all set to vote. It was a very hot day and I stood for half an hour in a long queue.

I am a senior citizen and it certainly was not easy for me. But I was determined to exercise my franchise.

I finally got to the polling officers' table and showed them both my voters' identity card and the slip of paper containing my serial number.

I thought it would be simple. I had preserved my photo ID card carefully for almost a year now. Then why was he flicking through the lists?

And then he dropped the bombshell.

He looked at me and said in chaste Kannada, "Madam, you have already voted."

I was shocked. "Of course, I haven't," I replied. "Look at my index finger! No indelible ink mark, see?"

He was unmoved. "Sorry, madam. Then you are not Mrs Kausalya Narayanan," he replied calmly.

I promptly flipped out my voters' ID card again and showed it to him.

"I am Mrs Narayanan," I said firmly. "See my photograph and name?"

He didn't seem convinced.

I admit, of course, that my voter's ID card photograph looks more like a morgue shot, but so did everybody else's.

Thankfully, some of my former students' parents, who were standing around, chimed in: "Of course she is who she says she is. We know madam very well. She has been running a school in this area for 25 years."

"Madam, then someone else has voted in your name, so sorry," said the man. "It happens.  Next, please!"

"Just a minute," I said quickly. "You can't just tell me to go away without voting. I insist on voting."

The man looked back at me. "All right then, if you know someone else who is not going to be here today, you can vote in his or her name," he replied.

I looked back at my two daughters, who were standing nearby in the queue, for support. My younger daughter walked up to me to find out what the problem was.

"Mom, you know my husband is in England right now," she said.

"Fine, then you sign in his name and go vote," the man said quickly.

"Hold on," I said, shocked. "Why should I do that? I don't want to vote in someone else's name. I want to vote in my own name."

My daughter chipped in, saying, "You are supposed to cancel a wrong voter's signature, and allow a legitimate voter to vote, if there has been a mistake."

The man turned and began chastising the three election officials who sat nearby. "You people must examine the ID cards of people who come to vote," he snapped at them.

They all looked scared.  But one of them plucked up courage and said, "The voters show you their identity card. Not us."

"You are holding up the queue," the man said to me. "Please come back later in the day and we will see what we can do about your case."

I began to get really angry. "Why should I? After waiting in the heat for so long?" I demanded. "Let me vote right now!"

The entire queue began to grumble. "All right, but I don't know what to do," said the officer.

"Just take a red pen, scratch out that fraud's signature, write cancelled beside it, let me sign there instead. Then I will go and vote," I said patiently as if I were talking to one of my tiny tots.

"Good idea," the man beamed and proceeded to do exactly as I said.

I finally walked into the booth and pressed the buttons in support of my chosen candidates.

The others waiting in the queue smiled their congratulations as I walked out.

As told to M D Riti in Bangalore
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Kausalya Narayanan