An election won by fluke!

Satish K Sharma

It was in 1969 or 1970. I was barely 10. We lived in a rented house in a locality called Maaji Sa ka Baas at Bikaner. My world, then, revolved around school, friends, games, postage stamps and the weekly movie in the open-air theatre of the Army battalion of my father.

In those days, things were as they should be. Summers were hot, winters cold. Parents raised their children without parenting, teachers taught without tutoring and tuition classes were for weak students. Milk came from the cow, not dairy, and drinking water from the tap, and not in plastic bottles.

This simple world of a few hundred households was thrown into excitement when elections were announced for Bikaner municipality. I can distinctly recall the three candidates who had thrown their hats in the ring to become ward member from our area.

The strongest, Bahadur Singh, was a Rajput and an advocate. His election symbol was, understandably, the lion. His arch-rival Ishwar Dayal, a Brahmin, had the rising sun as his symbol. The third candidate, Tulsiram Medatia, chose the bicycle simply because he owned the only cycle-repair shop in the locality. He did not belong to any of the higher castes.

If I had been a voter, my vote would have gone to Tulsiram, for he was a familiar figure. I often visited his shop to get the puncture in my father’s bicycle patched up. A thing he supplied free to all his customers was non-stop film songs from Vividh Bharati on his radio.

Presently, the mohalla was abuzz with political activity — posters, wall graffiti, loudspeakers and door-to-door campaigning. The main contest was between Bahadur Singh and Ishwar Dayal, but the former had an edge, because unlike his rivals, he had a jeep that he employed for campaigning and for ferrying voters to the polling booth. People of our lane also went to vote in his jeep.

However, the election result was surprising: Tulsiram Medatia won the election narrowly. The buzz was, ‘Cycle ne jeep ko hara diya’ (the bicycle has got the better of the jeep).

How it happened, I came to know from my landlord’s grandson who was a chum and source of mohalla gossip. He told me that the voters of our lane had voted for Tulsiram despite the free jeep ride from Bahadur Singh.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because on the last day Ishwar Dayal had sent a word to the people of our lane — all Brahmins — to vote not for him but for Tulsiram because Ishwar Dayal had realised he was not winning and he didn’t want Bahadur Singh to win either!’

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