As Uttar Pradesh heads for an election which promises to be a wild ride into the unknown and Arvind Kejriwal tries to steal the BJP’s thunder in Gujarat, the three election commissioners have inaugurated a museum to showcase the history of the polls in India. From the time when ballot box stuffing was the national sport to the democratic revolution brought in by electronic voting machines and videography, the Indian election has come a long way.
In fact, elections are more vital and energetic than ever before. Though the exuberant displays of wall graffiti are gone and it is illegal to turn whole buildings into comic strips, the voting public is more committed than ever before, and determined to have its say through the ballot. So, the question arises, can such a living tradition be canned in a museum, like the mummy of Ramses II or the skeleton of a woolly mammoth? The Election Commission’s intention is above reproach, of course. If children value elections, the future of democracy is assured. And, God knows, the principals of Delhi’s schools have taken their wards to the Rail Museum and the National Science Centre so many times that they would welcome a new museum.
It remains to be seen if schoolchildren are as fascinated by the blank emptiness of a ballot box as the Patiala State Monorail or the trilobite, which are rather exciting things to see, even if they are relics of the past. The success of the Indian electoral system can be just as stirring, though, when seen in action. Coincidentally, Indian polling booths are commonly placed in schools. Now that poll booth violence has dwindled, could schoolchildren be allowed to witness the voting process? How stirring it would be to see the fate of the nation decided in your own classroom.