The state election is over in West Bengal. Now only waiting for the results. It is indeed a long process this time. Lot of violence, abusing each other and hatred galore ! How was the election decades back ? A first had account.
Deep set out for the election duty early morning. His constituency is Ballygunge, in south Calcutta. This is a left-front seat, the present candidate is the Education Minister. This time there is a strange situation. RSP, the party Deep supports has decided to come out of the Left Conglomerate and going it alone. This would obviously mean division in left votes. The
Congress party has fielded a new candidate here. Deep is RSP polling-agent in a Booth. His cousin Mithu is the Left front polling-agent in the same booth. Ramayodhya a close friend of both Deep and Mithu is the Congress polling-agent in this booth. This means a group of close friends, aged around 20s, managing the booth for different parties – rival parties ! Those days scenario inside a booth was really friendly. Chandan, who was RSP polling agent in the next room was often visiting this polling room, supplying cigarettes ! Soon the supply depleted and of course Ram, the congress agent was a ready help who shared his packet.
At times they bullied each ones supporter ! Keshab chacha was a known RSP voter and as soon he entered the booth Ram started asking the usual questions to make his identity clear. Deep got up, inturupted the dialogue and told Ram not to harass Keshab chacha. Ram was ashamed and said “sorry I did not know he is your supporter”.
The next turn was for Deep who was about to interrogate Buluda who was a known congress voter, and, Ram took no time to get up and stopped Deep harrasing Buluda.
Those days voting was slow. Votes were literary put in a Ballot Box – an iron chest with a slit on top. The Ballot Paper was usually a long sheet of paper which was handed over to a voter , once all the polling agents of various political parties agreed that the voter is a genuine one. (There was no Voter ID Card, nor PAN card) In case there is a doubt the voter would be asked to bring Food Ration Card from home to prove his identity. After the voter received the Ballot Paper, as
usual his index finger would be marked with black ink. The voter would be supplied with stamping stick. On the ballot paper the voter would put the stamp on the preferred symbol to cast the vote. Then the ballot paper has to be folded in an orderly fashion – the most difficult part of the process. Thereafter the folded paper has to be pushed in the small slot or rather slit! Most of the time the folded paper would be half hanging out. The Presiding Officer would then push the paper in with a stick.
Lunch time ! Deep was supplied a food-packet containing three dry chapatis and some potato curry by RSP food-volunteers. During the lunch-hour all the parties sent in their food-volunteers who had easy access in the polling booths! Mithu got a similar packet from his Workers Party, the left front participant. The last one to receive food packet was Ram, from the Congress Party. Ram had Poories and curries and a sweet. Ram readily handed over the packet to his fellow-agents saying “I prefer chapatis – you may take my packet, I would take some of your chapatis.”
The polling station was set up at a local school and there were four booths set up, two at the first floor and two on the ground floor. The vote was indeed a festival. There prevailed a sense of celebration within and outside the booths.
By 4 p.m. the polling was over, each box was sealed with wax and a signed paper by all polling agents were pasted on each box. Within an hour a covered police- van collected all the Ballot Boxes to the counting centres.
The election was held on 10th March, 1971. There were 71118 voters, of which 36292 voted. Congress won the election in Ballygunge constituency. Deep’s party raced third.