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Congress taking Mumbai Biharis back home as "election outsourcing" booms

18, Oct 2010 By Simon

Mumbai. Congress recently announced its plan to bring Mumbai-based Biharis home to vote in the forthcoming election. This is due to a shortage of voters created by a Bihar based outsourcing company, which has been providing “innovative election solutions” to international clients for years. Boxticker Inc. offers what it calls “voter outsourcing”. The company recruits Bihari voters and transports them to international “client regimes” to vote in their elections.

“Our packages range from a few thousand people, what we call ‘balance tippers’, to all out landslides, or the ‘Mobutu special’, as we like to call it – we can send half of Patna if needs be,” said Boxticker’s founder, Tariq Mohammed.

The majority of the firm’s clients are from Africa, explained Mohammed, where the demand for “election management” is greatest but organization is poor. Whilst China is a boom market for so many industries at the moment, it is not a growth area for “electoral services”.

Elections in Kenya
Election outsourcing had begun sometime in 1990’s during the liberalization period, when Bihar based companies trained Africans for skills such as “booth capturing” and “spiteful sloganeering”, but now these companies stick to providing normal “election management” services.

“The Chinese have got that all taken care of in-house,” sighed Mohammed, wearing a leopard print hat and what appeared to be one of Nelson Mandela’s old shirts.

“It’s good work,” said “election engineer” Rakesh Gupta in a ZANU-PF t-shirt, who used to pull a cycle-rickshaw in Motihari, “we go on holiday to these foreign places, get free food and all we have to do is just wait in a line. Then a man with a big stick tells us who the Bihari candidate is and we vote for him. I never knew Robert Mugabe was from Muzaffarpur.”

Asked if it felt strange to vote in an election which would have no bearing on his life or prospects, Gupta promptly replied, “no, not at all”.

“Indians do a good job for us,” said an unnamed African official, “they like voting in blocks anyway and are happy if they see a familiar name on the ballot paper. Last year we changed the President’s surname to ‘Sharma’ on the ballot papers to make them feel at home. It was a landslide. The President won 104% of the vote.”

So successful has the outsourcing experiment been that some African states are considering relocating their entire elections to Bihar to cut travel costs.

Meanwhile a major US political party is considering Boxticker Inc’s services. “This isn’t technically ‘outsourcing’… it depends on what ‘outsourcing’ is”, clarified Republican spokesman, Daniel Shaw, “we prefer to see it as a brain-gain. American voters obviously cannot perform their democratic tasks adequately – just look at the guy they put in the White House and all this talk of helping the poor – so we need to bring in people with the skills to vote properly.” He later added, “as long as they all leave again quickly.”

“A tea party?” said Gupta, when told about the prospect of work in the US, “I like the sound of that.”