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|November 25, 1998||
Holiday mood in Gwalior
A Ganesh Nadar
It's a holiday mood in Gwalior. Most shops were closed and there was hardly any traffic on the roads.
Jeeps, cars and even a Maruti van were being used to ferry people to the booths. The cops were around but ignored it all.
They had put a barricade on one side of the main road. My autorickshaw weaved its way through but the cops ignored us. I was stunned, but the driver explained that the barricade was meant to slow us down, not stop us.
The two booths near Phool Bhag were peaceful. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party had put up tables some distance away from the booths. They were guiding voters and issuing voting slips. There was no shelter for the party workers -- everybody sat in the sun.
The Congress definitely had more tables, workers and vehicles. Last night, two vehicles -- an Ambassador and a Sumo -- with Congress flags flying atop them, had been seized from the most backward class areas. They were distributing liquor at the time.
A lot of women had turned up to vote. At 1000 hours the booths were still not crowded, though there was a steady stream of voters. The cops and the party workers said it would be crowded in the afternoon. A Congress worker said the new voting machines had speeded up the voting process.
Jeeps and vans raced through the streets with party flags fluttering. The people inside looked grim and determined. Certainly, people with a mission.
Padamse Maharaj Pada is a market in the heart of Gwalior. In a lane on the left was a polling booth. The Congress workers waited patiently for the voters. A Maruti van was unloading people. It's a long walk from the gate to the booth. People were laughing and chatting. Again, there were lots of women.
"You have come to vote?" a man asked a child.
"No, no, I just came with my mother," she replied. Another young girl and her mother were explaining that "somebody has already cast our votes." Make a complaint, someone advised.
Elsewhere in the Chambal valley, in Bhandair in Datiya district, the popular slogan was 'Goli lagegi chathi mein; mour lagana hai haathi pe (Take the bullet on the chest; place the stamp on the elephant).
People had said the election in the Sumawali constituency in Morena district would be violent. But the electoral officer there deserves to be commended. He organised for all the candidates to be out of the way so that none of them could do any mischief.
But I wonder what their henchmen were doing.
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