I do not know whether yesterday's elections will be the end of Rajiv Gandhi. But it does look like the end of a certain democratic system of electing a government that India had and it was proud of.
Yesterday must have been the darkest day in the history of the Indian democracy, as dark as the day Mrs. Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency. But that at least was the aberration of one woman, her desire to cling to power. What happened yesterday was contributed to by so many people.
Overnight we have become like all our Asian neighbours. Pakistan and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and Afghanistan and all the Arabs. What once the liberal West used to point out, much to our pride, as the only bation of democracy in the middle of military and civilian dictatorship and sheikhdoms, is no more. Overnight we have been lumped with the rest. They may now claim with greater authority - democracy is not meant for the East. And this at a time whe the entire Eastern Bloc of Europe has liberated itself.
It is not that violent manipulation of the polls has not taken place in earlier eletions. Only a couple of months ago we saw a documentary of brazen bullying, intimidation and booth-capturing. But that was in the north, in areas beyond our consciousness, in the mafia and dacoit lands of UP and Bihar. We almost did not believe it. Some of the shots, we said, were made up.
But yesterday it happened in Bombay. And practically in South Bombay. People prevented from voting, people voting in other people's names, people voting repeatedly for a fee or Rs. 10. And booth-capturing‚Ä¶ till the other day we did not know the meaning of booth-capturing.
And to what purpose? Not just for the sake of some individual to get into the Assembly to help his ego. It is to run rackets through the legislature, to control the government, to legitimise autocracy.
It means that an ordinaty person's vote does not count any more. Mr. And Mrs. Kesri Katrak need not bother to go to the K.C. College on a pleasant morning to cast their vote, and no need for Shyam and Nira Benegal to go to Villa Teresa to cast their vote.
Perhaps, I am being over-alarmist. The incidents, after all, are only a handful. Most people have voted with dignity and responsibility and their vote is not going to be wasted. But this morning after the elections it does not seem so. It seems like we have voted againt democracy.