Indelible ink on my finger

Just back after having voted in the General Elections with mixed feelings. I voted in the nearby school building and having gone early there was no one waiting in line.
I remember having voted for the Congress Party in 1952 which won with an overwhelming majority in Parliament. The Congress candidate for who I voted was Shri Mehar Chand Khanna, who was elected by a large majority. He became a Cabinet Minister for Rehabilitation. A refugee himself, he was responsible for settling the refugees who came to India after Partition and many of the “colonies” we now see in Delhi were plots allotted to settle those who came to independent India with no material possessions. Meherchand and Khanna markets in New Delhi are named for him.

I voted in every election after that for the Congress candidate and was loyal to the Congress party whose chief opponents in the early years were the Communist Party of India.

I joined the disillusioned section of congress supporters when Mrs. Indira Gandhi came to power when staunch party loyalists were critical of her autocratic ways, I think mostly because she distanced herself from all who were close to her father Jawaharlal Nehru. There were sporadic disturbances and protests which increased her insecurity. With friends and colleagues I attended meetings by Jai Prakash Narain and his strong voice of dissent.
Nevertheless I voted Congress in the 1971 elections. The election was not without controversy as Raj Narain who was defeated by Mrs.Gandhi In Rae Bareli filed a petition citing her corrupt practices. The Supreme Court ruled against her
Mrs. Gandhi’s isolation, surrounded only by a few sycophants, culminated in the Emergency in 1975 which shook most of us. Two years later many voted against her in the general elections that followed. Like them I rejoiced in her defeat in the elections that followed. 1977 will remain a year to remember.
I have not voted Congress since that year. There were many whose integrity and courage in the Emergency years brought them into the election fray in 1977. By then I was employed and had an independent income. I felt I must support those I admired. I contributed to the campaigns of the distinguished journalist B.G.Verghese from Mavelikkara in Kerala, and socialist politician H.V. Kamath from Hoshangabad. Kamath was elected to the Lok Sabha. I was disappointed that Mr. Verghese lost in that election. He continued his journalism and was awarded the Magsaysay Award.

I believe I MUST vote and choose candidates who I like and admire, regardless of whether they are “winning candidates”. The integrity of the candidate, his or her leadership without populist rhetoric is what I look for, as also the party’s contribution to civic progress. The media reports of their campaign are the last and the least credible 😉
This 2019 election is probably the dirtiest I have experienced, marking a nadir in political invective, slander and irrelevant issues used in mud-slinging. Whether dignity and honest debate will ever return to election scenario is something I sadly doubt.

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