Punjab Assembly Elections are here one more time at Punjab’s doorsteps. In the spirit of “freedom,” there will be candidates and party propagandists from the parties in power and aspiring for power, selling their new slogans and others repackaging or coining new phrases to sell the old ones, all in the hopes of getting our votes and becoming elected in the 2012 Elections. The voter, on the other hand, is also getting smarter and shrewder if not totally fatigued and frustrated over this seasonal drama recurring every 5 years since 1952. The voter is expected to look and listen more carefully this year before casting his or her vote. As far as the NRIs in the Diaspora are concerned, since they have no vote or have no bowl of rice directly at stake one way or the other, it is big community news and the subject of gossip and discussion anywhere Punjabis congregate: at Gurdwaras, Mandirs, and Masjids all over the world, including California, where I and many other Punjabis, live.
Eying the voter at home in Punjab, there will be horse trading, arm twisting and dangling of all kinds of carrots to lure the voters in and keep the candidates to toe the line. Paid news, muscle power, threats, blackmailing, bribery, alcohol, and drugs are almost seen as acceptable and “natural” means to seduce the bride to come to the altar for all states in India. Falling for an extra fancy for it, and taking it to new heights or depths (depending on your perspective), this practice has been especially facilitated in the land of five rivers by our successive governments over the years so much so that this has slowly but surely crept into our most sacred of elections for our religious institutions such as the SGPC. People in general and that includes our political parties, have little faith in the local police. Running an honest and ethical election has become quite the challenge for the Election Commission who is contemplating import policing to conduct their business this time; this is what democracy looks like today!