Sunday, March 17, 2013

When Dr. Varghese could not cast his vote...

Shankarghatta - a view from the university
My lectures at the Mass Communication Department at the Kuvempu University fell on the City Municipality Elections voting day in Karnataka. The University itself is named after Late K.V. Putappa (Kuvempu) considered as one of the fathers of Modern Kannada literature and is situated at Shankargatta, a small town on the outskirts of a reserved forest area that is around 45 minutes drive away from the city of Shimogga.
Well, Shimogga is Mr. B. S. Yeddyurappa's constituency and Yeddyurappa's stories on corruption  cases are well known. The land that he owns right on the Shimogga-Shankarghatta road along with a 'few lkilometer long' compound wall that is attached to it forms a prominent part in the 'things to see' list and that the housing rent at Shimogga doubled to Rs. 3,000/- for a three boredom house as soon as Mr. Yeddyurappa became the Chief Minister of the State of Karnataka forms a prominent part in the 'things to know' list when one visits Shankarghatta.
I was also told that during the last elections running rate for a voter to vote for a candidate was Rs 1,000. Since there was no guarantee that the voter who took the money actually voted for the person or party who gave the money, this time around the rumor was that the voter had to deposit his Election Card after receiving the money. Somebody will cast his vote and give him back his card.
Since I am a practicing film maker and mine was a 'Special Lecture' on 'Film Theory and Documentary Film making', the non teaching staff of the Mass Communication Department were, as a preemptive measure, asked by it's Department Head Dr. D. S. Poornananda to cast their vote quite early in the morning and then report to work - lest they treat, by default, the day as a holiday 'on account of national duty'.
The teaching staff though were excited to see me, as I had been there before. During lunch time, Dr. P. A. Varghese, Associate Professor, sheepishly told me that he had to leave, as he and his wife had to cast their votes in Shimogga. Dr. Varghese is originally from Kerala and he had completed his Ph.D. from the University of Philippines. Off late he has made Shimogga his base as he got a posting in Kuvempu University.
The next morning when Dr. Varghese came to the Department, I sensed that he was a depressed man. His colleagues too collaborated on me. It did not take deep probing to know the reason. He and his wife had apparently stood in the voting que for quite a long time, only to be told when their turn came that their voting rights had already been exercised - this despite both of them providing valid election cards.
Every one around in the staff room were aghast in disbelief. 'How did it happen?', said one. 'How could you have let it happen', said another. 'You should have lodged a complaint', I suggested in concern. 'I did have an argument with them, but the lady in question was almost in tears as she begged not to lodge a complaint because her career might be at stake', he replied.
'It is obvious that your votes have been misused', added Dr. Poornananda. 'And if you show such sympathy how will corruption end? By not lodging a complaint, you too have been complicit in the crime', he stressed adding salt to his wounds. I thought he has a mischievous glee in his eye, much to the discomfort and embarrassment of Dr. Varghese.
It was a similar sort of glee that I had seen in the town of Tezu in the far off Arunachal Pradesh where I had been recently when a person belonging to the Mishimi Tribal Community mischievously asked me if I am from the same clan as Mr. Yeddyurappa. Google tells me that Tezu is 3,654 Kilometers away from Shimogga - but you bet news travels fast. It was obvious that he was well versed with the 'Yeddi stories'.
Well, the next time I go to Tezu if nothing else, atleast I can boast back that I have seen the 'many kilometer long' iconic Mr. Yeddyurappa compound wall near Shankarghatta.
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