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   All elections tell the same story, at least, in the newspapers (February 13, 1995)

By now I have covered so many elections that I can do them without moving out of the office. For instance:

Voting was good, voting was poor, you may alternate between the two. And figures mean nothing, 65 per cent could be good or poor, depending on how you look at it. There are other sure bets: voting was brisk in the early hours of the morning, but petered off during the day. Or, voting picked up late in the afternoon.

It was heavy in the labour areas, particularly Chinchopkli, Parel, Bhoiwada; it was poor in Malabar Hill, Churchgate.

Then there are stories of people who did not find their names on the votersí rolls, hundreds and thousands of them. Entire buildings being omitted, people coming to vote and going back disappointed. Stories of people complaining to election officers, candidatesí representatives complaining to election officers.

If the chief minister has a vote in town, then there is a story about the chief minister being among the earliest to go and cast his vote at the municipal school near his residence. Or the governor being among the first to cast his vote, even standing in a voterís queue of two or three persons, never more. For some reason, the top people always cast their votes early.

And they manage to get their pictures in the papers. Though that is because the photographers, a day earlier, find out from the top people, or their secretaries, what time they are going to vote.

Newspaper photographers also have their set pictures. Burkha-clad ladies voting at Dongri, a 110-year-old man casting his vote, an ancient woman being carried on the shoulder of her grandson to the voting booth, the chief election officer slipping his vote into the ballot box, police patrols at street corners with children looking at them, the wife of a candidate who is in prison, under trial, voting, a long queue of voters, with cows in the pasture in the foreground.

And there are several human-interest stories that

you may write blindfold. A family of four, each one voting for a different candidate; a house in which the owners find they have no vote, but the servants have; a man stating that he was not voting for anybody because he does not approve of any of the candidates; a reporter so busy covering the elections that at the end of the day he finds he has not exercised his vote (this story is normally spiked by the sub-editor, if he is sensible).

And, at the end of the day, there are the conjectures that are typed out in the office. Heavy voter turnout means that the ruling party has won, or, if you are

in that kind of mood, heavy voter turnout means the ruling party has lost.

So, one more election has come and gone. Now we wait to know the results. And may the worst party lose.

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