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   The chief told me... (August 5, 1991)

The chief told me: "Go to the villages, where the real heart of India is, and interview a typical villager to find out who he is going to vote for."

So I took a train, got down at a small station, took an ST bus, then took a bullock-cart half way, walked through fields the other half, and met a typical villager. He was tilling his tiny patch of land in anticipation of the monsoon season.

I introduced myself and told him: "Mr. Titoo Ahluwalia and the rest of us have done enough surveys of the city people, we would now like to find out which way the rural vote will swing. So, tell me, who are you going to vote for."

The vilager said: "I have not yet made up my mind. It is a difficult choice. There are so many people wanting my vote. I do not know whether to give it to the man who came in the small plane and landed it in the paddy field there, or to the man who came in the helicopter and landed in the vegetable plot over there, the one with the brinjal and tendlis."

"I know it is a difficult choice, in the city also people are finding it so," I said. "But still, who will you vote for?"

"There is the man who came in a jeep, driving it himself, followed by a convoy of air-conditioned cars filled with police, officials, party workers, chief minister and his party, press reporter. I may vote for him. But there is also this other man, who came riding on the pillion of a scooter and told me he had nothing to offer me except himself, Bofors, and 55 per cent reservation... I have to consider all aspects."

All right, so now you have considered them. Who will you vote for?" I asked.

"Well, I could vote for the man who came here, shook my hand, and went away, or the man who gave a 45-minute speech, after coming here two days late," the vilager said. "I will have to take a final decision."

"So take it," I said. "Just tell me who you will vote for. I do not want to know anything more."

The villager said: "Our village panchayat is also considering who we should all vote for: the man who promised to bring electricity to the vilage, or the man who promised to bring water, or the man who said he will build a school and hospital in the village."

"These are minor issues," I said, "they can be settled later. Just tell me who you are going to vote for, so that I can go back to the city and type my report."

The villager shaded his eyes with a hand, looked at the sky, then said: "You will have to wait. I see an aircraft approaching. Let us see who come by that and what does he have to offer."

So I returned to the office and told the chief: "Rural India is undecided."

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