Is 13 a scary number?
Most of us would fear this number. But one institution in this country has shown its preference for this number many times.
The institution in question is none other than the Election Commission of India!
The Election Commission has conducted many elections or counting of votes on days that fall on the hated 13.
The counting of Assembly elections in 2001 was held on May 13. So was the counting for the general elections in 2004.
This year, the EC shocked the political parties in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry by announcing that the Assembly elections in these states would be held on April 13 and counting on May 13.
The dread of 13 has nothing to do with superstition, though.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister leads the rally of politicians campaigning against the election date.
Saying that April 13 is too early, M Karunanidhi said everybody expected the polls to be held either in the last week of April or in the first week of May.
He said there is a month-long gap between the date of poll and the date of counting. The new assembly had to be constituted on May 17 and there was too little time for completion of the process.
Karunanidhi said the complete results would be out only on May 14 and parties would have just two days time for ministry formation as the Assembly had to be summoned by May 17 – The term of the present Assembly ends on May 16.
What Karunanidhi did not reveal is the fact that the DMK and the Congress are yet to finish seat-sharing talks. The DMK is hard-pressed for time to finalise the deal with the Congress, especially when the AIADMK has already sealed seat-sharing deals with other parties.
Parties in Kerala also find themselves racing against time. Congress leaders in the state are working overtime to finalise deals with its allies in the United Democratic Front who are demanding more seats. They want to settle the seat-sharing issue and hit the campaign trail as soon as possible.
Though the Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala doesn’t have seat-sharing problems, a sense of urgency has gripped even this front since the announcement of poll dates.
The LDF is confronted with the question of who would be the chief ministerial candidate. Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has said he is ready to contest the polls. But will the front want to project him as their candidate for CM?
Time waits for no man, not even geriatric politicians. Now, the parties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala should move at a breakneck speed to finalise poll deals, to find candidates and to begin their campaign.
The ‘short notice’ will help them make the most qualitative use of time at their hands. There is no doubt that they will accomplish their target in a matter of few days.
Perhaps the move is a blessing in disguise from the Election Commission…
Less number of days for campaigning means less expense.
And once the election is over on April 13, the leaders have a full month to relax.
I could also let my imagination run wild on what the one-month gap between the poll date and counting could cause to the ‘safely-kept’ Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
That too, in two states where reports of alleged EVM tampering surface after every election.
Who said 13 is a bad number?