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Election Commission's Knock At Midnight!

May 13, 2024 13:27 IST

My press card did not stop them. They entered the room, one ran to the balcony; another opened the cupboard and a third went into the bathroom.

A Ganesh Nadar's close encounters with the Election Commission.

Illustrations: Dominic Xavier/

I was in Andhra Pradesh covering the elections. Andhra is voting both in the parliamentary and assembly elections so activity on the ground was high.

We were driving from Kadapa to Rajahmundry where the BJP state president and Cuddapah Lok Sabha candidate Daggubati Purandeshwari was canvassing for votes.

We were stopped by the police and my driver advised me to show my press card. On which the policeman let us go with a tired smile, possibly happy that he did not have to check my car for money. The next policeman who stopped us did not bother with the press card. He simply went behind the car and signalled for the driver to open up.

"Just watch, he will bang the dicky door as if it is his father's car," said my driver. And that is exactly what happened. After finding an empty boot he banged the cover down hard. My driver sighed and we drove on.

I thought that it was the end of my brush with the Election Commission-mandated inspection of vehicles and the like for transport of illegal funds, but that was not to be.

I always stay in a government hotel when I am travelling for that is where government officials, ministers' PAs etc stay. So I was staying at the Harita Berm Park in Bhavani Island, Vijayawada.

The hotel is on the banks of the river Krishna and has a fantastic view of the incredibly clean river, with boats floating around and a speed boat thrown in for fun.

I was tired and fell asleep. It had been a long day, a very hot day and there were only two days left for voting.

I was in a state of deep sleep when I thought I heard the door bell ring. I checked my mobile phone; it was half an hour after midnight. I had read about the Gestapo's midnight knock in Nazi Germany, but wasn't I in democratic India?

I did not open the door. I screamed, "Who is that?" "Room service," came the answer. "I did not order room service," I replied. "Sir! Room service with the police, for verification."

I recognised the clerk's voice so I opened the door. There was this gentleman with an ID card around his neck, some six inches square with the words 'Election Commission' printed on it. The official's name and designation were written with a ball point pen in a very neat hand.

He was accompanied by a policeman in uniform, the hotel clerk looking apologetic, and two others. My press card did not stop them. They entered the room, one ran to the balcony; another opened the closet and a third went into the bathroom.

Naturally they did not find anything out of the way and the clerk apologised as they left. I told him. "No worries, you can read about it tomorrow."

I went back to sleep in a foul mood. My driver and a hotel staffer had told me that they had already received Rs 2,000 to vote. The Election Commission at least at the bottom rungs had woken up late. The top is still in coma.

I was on the way to the railway station. Voting was the next day. My driver asked me, "Are you carrying lots of money?" I asked him, "Why? I don't have much money, but enough to pay your fare." "Sir, the cops are stopping cars and searching ahead," he said.

The cops were stopping all the cars, but were searching random vehicles, not all. They didn't search my car.

I sighed! I wish someone would tell them that the horses had already bolted, it was pointless closing the stable doors now.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/