To build muscle, you need to build a mindset first, and who better than gym rats to attest to that? Without the “I can do it” mindset, no result-getting physical action is ever achieved, whether within the gym or in the world outside. As the 7-phase general election, termed the “festival of democracy,” concludes, we may have temporarily reached the end of the mind games played by politicians who unleashed their party manifestos replete with populist schemes in the hope of spurring physical action that results in government formation. Muscle-flexing henchmen and vocal-cord-flexing politicians, media persons, panelists, astrologers, and psephologists are done with the “mindset” building and analyzing exercise before they go with fresh vigour for the “after-result” exercise. Amidst the rousing rhetoric, character assassination, sex scandals, and what have you, the election circus provided us entertainment, exasperation, and horror in equal measure, and we may even miss the melodrama that became part of every discussion and social gathering for the past few months. Whatever and whoever is in store for us, most of us are resigned to our fate knowing the self-serving nature of our leaders, whichever party they belong to.

Apart from the quiet resignation to the fact that only people with a certain mindset can enter politics, there were some moments that showed us a deviation from the norm this campaign season. The voter turnout may have been low as usual in the urban clusters despite the constant reminder that we should exercise our right as dutiful citizens, but the rural segments provided a refreshing perspective. It was here that we saw small beginnings that augur change. Unaffected by long hours in queues and EVM machines that tested one’s patience, the rural voter across the country exhibited rare courage and patience triumphing over all odds. Violence and election-related deaths have not deterred them, nor has brute force silenced them into submission. They may have accepted benefits showered by all parties, but unlike our urban elite, they have an inkling of who or what could be good for them.

So, what’s new this time around? I see a glimmer of hope in a small act of courage exhibited by a common voter in a polling booth in Andhra Pradesh that could have easily been missed in the hectic electioneering across the country. As voters waited for long hours in a queue, the local legislator of the area, who belonged to the ruling party, walked in with his supporters and proceeded to bypass the queue and cast his vote. A voter who had been awaiting his turn in the queue for over two hours objected to the MLA just walking past the line and getting into the booth. Unused to any questioning, the enraged MLA slapped the voter. The stunned voter didn’t wait for a minute before returning the favor and was later roughed up by the MLA’s men but stood his ground that a legislator had to follow rules too. Now, I don’t condone violence of any sort but feel that the courage exhibited by a common citizen of the country against the entitlement and arrogance of a person in power is a glimmer of hope. The courage to question those who perform questionable acts has far-reaching consequences. It may hopefully usher a new mindset that can counter the flexing of muscles.