'Vaccination' mark as proof of voting!

'Vaccination' mark as proof of voting!

The selfies on polling days show voters proudly display the indelible ink mark on their left forefinger but if a suggestion in 1957 had gone through, a voter would have to show vaccination marks as proof of voting!

On the eve of Second General Elections in 1957, the Election Commission received an interesting suggestion to tackle impersonation – instead of marking the left forefinger of a voter with indelible ink, he should be compulsorily vaccinated or re-vaccinated for smallpox before receiving any ballot paper.

The reasoning was that vaccination mark "remains fresh and prominent for well over a week" and a voter would not be able to personate another voter for that period. The suggestion came following criticism that the mark made on a voter's finger by indelible ink is not, in fact, indelible and is capable of being removed.

The EC under first Chief Election Commissioner Sukumar Sen did not take a decision on this before the polls, as it there was a need for creating a "strong public opinion" in its favour and parties would have to be consulted also and their substantial concurrence obtained.

There was a need for amending the law to make re-vaccination compulsory on the day of the poll and that the provision requiring the marking of the voter's finger with indelible ink would not apply to such an area of course, Sen wrote in his detailed analysis of the 1957 elections.

If this was a curious suggestion ahead of the polls, 1957 also saw very interesting incidents, which Sen narrates in his 325-page report.

The humorous incidents included a candidate who named himself "Lord Jesus Christ" filing nomination in New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency. He did not deposit security money and could not contest.

In a polling station in Bihar, Sen wrote, an old woman voter demanded to see "Pandit Nehru" before she would vote and it took a lot of persuasions to make her vote. A polling station in Uttar Pradesh saw a few voters demanding to be allowed to vote for "Gandhiji" and "Nehruji".

"In Madras, a voter refused to exercise his franchise in favour of any person other than "Shri Sukumar Sen", the Chief Election Commissioner. The voter is said to have remarked "I want to vote for Shri Sukumar Sen only and not for the candidate of any of the parties. All these parties have been harassing me with their election propaganda for over a month," Sen wrote.

Sen has said that the Second General Elections were "less of an adventure or novelty" as compared to the first "when even the most optimistic people had felt doubtful as to how far a large country which had only just attained its independence and had yet to settle down to a democratic form of government could successfully carry through a country-wide programme of democratic elections based on adult suffrage".

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