The image of the Google Doodle obstinately sticking a single ink-stained finger up on the screen through the cruellest month, April, to the middle of May had begun to look tiresome. And the protracted election exercise was playing tricks on my mind, starting with the Google Doodle. It didn’t look quite right to me: I began to argue with myself that it was sticking its middle finger up not the index finger ever so slyly! My family and friends chose to ignore my claims but in order to determine and validate my theory I began peering at the Google Doodle surreptitiously to catch it unawares. This obsession pervaded my dreams and turned them into nightmares. And the avaricious appetite of the media and social media extensions to capture the exhibits of all those manicured fingers with “casted”, “done-it”, “did-it”, “voted” exclamations for five and half weeks did no good either.
If a week is a long time in politics, a month and half, then, is hellish eternity. Those men and women (a woefully short line there) who campaigned long and hard for the Lok Sabha in hot, muggy conditions had to then agonizingly, excruciatingly wait longer for the results. Some of them have had to wait for 40 days. In other words, the absurdity of that oxymoron, chilling in the summer heat, was beginning to take its toll—unravelling many a politician.
There is no cure, they say, for this new strain of Election Fever. The coping mechanisms were not in place for a country of this size- it had never witnessed this kind of collective hyper-tension ever before. One would argue that Independent India’s first general election in 1951-52 stretched for over quarter of a year—four months to be exact. But back then, the Election Fever was well contained, for television channels, social media and exit polls had yet to come into existence so the Indian voter went about his daily routine—ploughing the field, selling tea or whatever, in the interlude between voting and counting day.
However in 2019, the entire country is ceaselessly seized in exercising their electoral rights and duties. States like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have had to endure a never-ending-nightmarish elections for most part of the summer, where some part of the state was always in campaign mode or voting mode. In that sense, Kerala was lucky. It completed the task early with all its 20 seats going to the polls in one go.
But the interminable wait for results has psychologically affected both the candidates and the voters. Election Fever which was always considered as mild as common cold and curable with a small dose of analgesic had become resistant to any antidote. To rephrase Freud, the conflict raging in the candidate’s psychic strata between losing and winning was manifesting in different ways.
The day after the elections in Kerala, we hear the Chief Minister of Kerala, scowled at the media with an angry directive, “keep away”! Anger and irritation is one of the early symptoms of Election Fever. The other is the use of harsher vocabulary: both the Prime Minister and the West Bengal Chief Minister exhibited that. One candidate in Thiruvananthapuram showed similar symptoms-he hurled accusations at all his opponents of conspiring to defeat him. Just when the fever was thought to be under control, a candidate in Trissur began to fall to pieces. This was evidence that the epidemic had furiously and rapidly spread across Kerala.
By early May, Election Fever had reached epidemic proportions, incapacitating not just a few but gripping a billion people: a maniacal obsession of guessing who would win or who would lose was raising the temperature. Taking the lead were the national television channels that were given to blabbering endlessly like dimwits. Some psychologists think that verbalising the unconscious can actually liberate repressed emotions and mental health can be restored-one can say it’s akin to bloodletting. (In the ancient days, bloodletting was considered an effective treatment for hypertension.) If that is the case, then I welcome all that blabbering on television—for after all, it is a panacea for grave mental illness! For the rest us common folks, the only thing to do is stuff ourselves with mangoes as we await the results.