Indian Mythology is peppered with great stories. And my favourite right now, with the elections around the corner, is the legend of Mohini – Bhasmasura. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the it, let me give you the abridged version – Lord Shiva who is pleased with the penance of Bhasmasura, the great demon, gives him a boon that he can burn anything and anybody by just placing his hand upon its head. Upon receiving the ‘gift’, Bhasmasura tries to place his hand on Lord Shiva’s head to burn him.
To me, nothing else succinctly sums up my life as a voter than this story.
Think about it.
In a little more than 24 hours we will to get our finger inked – marked present at the democratic ritual called elections. Thanks to civic lessons in school, we have been told, this is our power. Our vote, our choice, our government. But we have to ask – really?
Because I can’t help feeling a bit like Lord Shiva – not as the invincible force who had the power to destroy earth, but the man who almost burned down, thanks to his own choice. We the voters, as Lord Shiva, grant our political candidates the boon of being elected. That is our power. And yet, if we choose wrong (well you can argue that there never is a right choice), the threat of being burnt by our own boon is very, very real.
Because what really are our options?
I recently caught a couple of videos of a popular theatre/film actor. He was critical of the candidates who were his choices, including the ruling party’s man. And yet, in another video, he speaks about his reasons to vote for the ruling party.
This dichotomy is the reality of our choice today, and leaves us shortchanged as voters.
Ever since our elections turned presidential, all but in name, the dilemma of whether we are choosing our MPs or a Prime Minister has never been more profound.
Right candidate – wrong party; wrong candidate – right party. Do we vote for a bad candidate because we like the guy at the top? Do we not vote for a great guy because we don’t like the guy on top? Is it alright for us to consider this election through the prism of just our constituency? If every vote is important and every seat matters in times of coalition politics – can we disregard the consequences of having this narrow view point?
Oh it is not easy being an Indian voter this time!
But as we grapple with these questions, ruling parties replace qualified possibilities with inexperienced rabble-rousers and their opposition gives us nothing better.
Because we have been taken for granted.
The system has essentially become about two men (and perhaps a woman now?), while the individual cogs that keep the system running have become null and void.
And that is what should annoy us as voters because we deserve better. Stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, a pragmatic compromise seems to be my only option. Talk about choices!
The legend of Mohini – Bhasmasur, ironically, ends with a dance. Lord shiva seeks the help of Lord Vishnu to vanquish the demon. Vishnu takes the avatar of Mohini, an enticingly lovely lady, who cons Bhasmasura into placing his hand on his own head as he mirrors her dance moves.
But, if we as voters want to vanquish this demon, I am afraid we don’t have the luxury of outsourcing the job like Lord Shiva did. It has to be us forcing our parties for better candidates.