They switched on the Television again, Jagannath was still trailing.

Madhu reassured her mother and sisters as she ate chapattis, and yellow dhal. But her mother who was usually intuitive, seemed tense. Madhu was shocked to learn that Nanjappa’s candidate had three thousand votes, if he had not been fielded her dad would have been plus by thousand eight fifty votes. Then the votes of villages which Nitish had predicted to shape her father’s victory were being counted. But they did not change any number, whatever happened , Madhu could not fathom, there was an announcement saying Jagannath was defeated by Shulappa with a margin of thousand two hundred votes. No one knew who this Shulappa was. Congress had swept the polls in that elections, Jagannath was an exception, by his defeat.

There was a stunned silence. Everyone seemed to talk at once, “My god how can this be? Is it true, is he defeated?” Then they saw Jagannath shaking hands of Shulappa, and the victory procession of Shulappa with his workers in an open jeep, the posters of her father’s picture smiling on some walls. Shanthala and Mandakini began to cry. Meenu started to suck her lower lip, looking pathetically sad. Madhu called the office, no one answered. She timidly asked “Shall I call, Tunga aunty, I know she is staying with her sister in Sringar” Mother nodded. The sister picked up the phone, she said that Tunga had not come home as yet; she was scared to talk to Shanthala, like talking to a bereaved family, which is not at peace with its grief, as yet.

Nitish called again, he explained “It was the RJP’s underhand tactic madam, you know we had both assembly and parliament elections this time, they convinced the illiterates of the two villages, that they should stamp two symbols in each of the ballot paper given to them, so every ballot sheet had one mark over the hand (symbol of Congress) and some other symbol also, so they were technically invalid votes. Eight thousand votes went invalid madam, no use of recounting sir said, forget it. The election agent and electoral officers were also bought, our own representatives in the counting booth were working against us, the party had won, and they did not want him to win. The leader of the dissidents Nanjappa had bought the election duty officers. It was only cheating, not a straight victory, sir laughed saying all is fair in war and love, it was unfair madam, it was totally unfair”

Now Madhu was also crying, one ballot paper ought to carry only one vote, they were tricked in to voting two, and their loyalties were defined with her father. They appeared disloyal, but they were themselves tricked, they did not know. The cheap strategy if you can’t convince, then confuse had worked. Nitish was also crying “Those villagers cried holding your father’s feet, he was so graceful. That Nanjappa, purchased three thousand votes madam, when your father asked them how you can allow yourselves to be purchased, they said we have families sir, like sir has no family. They jeered him for not being corrupt , who asked you not to make money, you could have made money and distributed to us also, then we would have been with you” Madhu could not listen to more of this.

There were no Robin Hoods in the modern world, people hoarded money for personal power, and they distributed pennies. Madhu retold most of this to Shanthala, who was inconsolable, “ He died for that city, he called it his fortress, I am sure all his followers were hatching eggs , while RJP was teaching the voters to cast invalid votes, what will we do, he better come back tonight” . Her father called , Madhu gave the phone to her mother, Shanthala sobbed “ I want you to come back , tonight, you should not be staying in that disloyal city for one more minute, For all your time away from us, ruining your health, for your honesty, we don’t even have our own house, that site, which is cleared only now is all that we have, and they reward you like this, god is sleeping , he has closed his eyes” Madhu took the phone , Jagannath was calm though he sounded tired “ Listen, they were not disloyal, they were foolishly innocent, each of that ballot sheet had my symbol, they loved me, they were misled. There is nothing personal about this defeat, your mother should not be alleging the party workers, that is unfair, they are equally disappointed”. Madhu controlled her tears “ Ok . Appa, please come back tonight we also love you”. He gruffly said yes and put the phone down.