Sitakant Mahapatra is an Oriya writer belonging to the post-colonial era. In his writing, he tries to go against the trend of romanticizing the past and instead focuses on the reality and the presence of movement.
The reality in his works is not what we see or perceive with our eyes but the reality of life. The poem The Election is based on the Postcolonial Disillusionment. The poem is a narrative of an election day in India.
A politician is the narrative of the poem who has come to campaign for the votes in a remote area. The poem is a satire on the ‘rule of people’ in India.
In the beginning, we find that he has criticized the politicians but with at the end of the poem, the criticism moves from the rulers to the commoners and failure of democracy is revealed.
Our jeep crawls to your village
seeking strange melodies
from the roaring sun:
‘the common will’
from the criss-cross geometry
of private agonies.
In the first stanza, the narrator i.e. the politician says to the villagers that the jeep of politicians ‘crawl’ on the road to reach them. The jeep does not run but crawls signifying the worst condition of roads in remote areas.
Rallies of the politician are accompanied by music, applaud, noise, hooting etc which is quite strange as such things rarely happen in the villages particularly under the burning sun.
All this happens for the sake of ‘the common will’ i.e. democracy which is very important in India (that is why he keeps the term in single commas).
The Politician forces the villagers to acknowledge the problems and difficulties he has faced by travelling to their village on criss-cross geometry i.e. irregular and rough roads.
If we go deeper into the words we find how politicians, who were supposed to be the servants of the public, ironically become their masters and vice versa.
Thus now that democracy has made them masters, their leaving of a comfort zone for the people would be a kind of gratitude on people.
Our dark longings don’t touch you,
Nor our trappings
of posters, symbols, speeches, handbills,
for your grief outlives empires.
In the second stanza, the politician says that the villagers are not affected by the ‘dark longings’ i.e. their hard work done by him on poster making, symbol campaigning, speeches and the handbills etc because they have their own sorrows and grieves that surpass the issues of the states.
However, it is the grieves of the commoners that help him to gain power. The politician emotionally triggers their problems to gain favour and ultimately succeed in gaining votes as well.
The cold grandchildren
awaken in your heart
As you discern
on our ashen faces.
In the third stanza, the narrator says that villagers have killed desires in their hearts as they know well that their condition will never be changed.
However, they have hope in their hearts that their future progeny may be able to live in a better way. This makes them look on the face of a politician which is tired and ashy as he has left his comfort zone for the sake of votes.
In these lines, one can see how people see their leaders. They consider as if they have some magical powers to do something for them.
The people never try to bring the change on their own but instead put their hopes on the politicians. Hence they remain in the same condition for eternity.
Here the great persuaders
are little things, and not so hidden:
cheap plastic, cheaper nylon,
dark glasses to blot out the Sun.
In the fourth stanza, the narrator exposes the real face of democracy in India. According to him, it is not hidden but the very common fact that in such remote areas they (the politicians) need not do something big and extraordinary for the votes, but providing cheap things like plastic, nylon, glasses etc during the campaign period will do.
Politicians thus succeed to blot out the sun; they deviate people from the development and welfare by giving away the cheap goods (only during the campaign). Thus anti-democracy comes into existence.
With one foot in hunger
and the other in the soul,
you make your decision:
the anguish of choice.
In the last stanza, the narrator describes the failure of democracy caused, not by the politicians but by the commoners. The people on one hand become selfish in their demands and ask for livelihood to the rulers at any cost.
On the other hand, they talk about soulful things like basic rights, social change etc. They cannot decide to which side they should go and ultimately fail in making the right decision.
Thus social issues like inequality, class-divide and poverty are not because of politicians but because of the choice of people.
Hence the narrator explains how a task like election which was meant for the welfare of people and which could bring about the change in the country becomes a miser task of corruption and malpractices.