The inked finger
Madhusudhan: The Inked Finger in the 2014 Elections, It is the left one that has been made to stand witness to one’s participation in the country’s election process, the biggest democratic exercise in the world.
Never before in Indian history or folklore, has the index finger that is normally used to warn adversaries and caution people against dangers been put to better use than it is in the 2014 elections. It is the left one that has been made to stand witness to one’s participation in the country’s election process, the biggest democratic exercise in the world. Though the process of marking the left index finger with an indelible ink has been going on for years to minimise double voting and other poll-related frauds, this is the first time that an inked finger has attained somewhat celebrity status.
Open any morning newspaper the special election pages greet you with pictures of celebrities proudly showing their inked fingers. Their upright position reminds us of cricket referees pointing out to batsmen’s ousters. Though the signal that sends a batsman packing to the pavilion comes from the unmarked right hand index finger, it can be from the left as well if the referee happens to be a left-hander. The slow movement of finger going up is an act of stamping his authority on his decision. Similarly, the voter showing off his/her inked finger has an air of finality that implies the person has sealed the fate of candidate in the electronic voting machine.
In fact, it is a good sign; for, more and more eligible voters are coming out of their homes and exercising their franchise. The percentage of voting proves it. In some areas, the voter turnout was so heavy that it broke all earlier records. The reasons could be many, but the high attendance should be attributed to public campaigns launched by the media and the Election Commission. At the same time, the role of social media is in no measure small.
Powered and fuelled by 150 million young voters in the 18-23 age group, Twitter and WhatsApp are doing much more poll propaganda than any other medium with selfies and fingies prompting fellow youths to rush to the polling booths to cast their votes and flash their inked fingers in single victory style on social sites!
Indeed, it is a victory of sorts, considering the fact that 20 per cent of eligible voters were young and many were first-timers whose decisions would make a difference in candidates’ win. But the inked finger you see on mobile phones can be deceptive. For, there were reports that some overenthusiastic youths had marked their index fingers with fake ink and sent the picture across to fool their peers.
There were also reports that a few poll officials in some areas in Mumbai had thought that there was no difference between right and left and marked voters’ right index finger instead of left. But in Bangalore, it was the left thumb that gave ‘up’ or ‘down’ to candidates in the fray. This time around, the biggest Bollywood hit was the inked finger. A majority of silver screen idols had voted and got their manicured marked index finger photographed, sending a silent message to those who are going to vote to emulate them. In Chennai, voting day was discount day for shoppers. Like in Delhi, the inked finger got price cuts on various goods and services, at beauty parlours and street vendors, for example.
If the inked finger has turned into a symbol of our commitment to democracy, the indelible liquid manufactured by Mysore Paints and Varnish Ltd has a global appeal. The company has left its mark on as many as 20 countries’ electorate. According to a report, 20 billion fingers are said to have been inked across the globe during elections since the company started manufacturing the photo-sensitive product that can’t be erased at least for a week. In the recent Afghan elections, voters dipped their index fingers in pots of India-made ineffaceable ink. That might be a crude way of marking voters, but apparently the authorities didn’t want to take any chances. Like the electronic voting machine, the indelible ink was developed by Indian scientists and it is considered as a foolproof system against voting fraud. Now, a word, which may not be the last, on the inked finger. British newspaper Guardian has it: “In a country where myriad body markings, jewellery and turban styles can differentiate people by caste, region or tribe, an ink mark applied on every voter’s finger at the polling booth is a rare unifying feature… It is a badge of universal democratic privilege.” Indeed, it is!