Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Indian Elections: 'Colourless campaigns' in the era of Election Commission's strictness

In my childhood, election season was special. The campaigns were boisterous and colourful.

Loud speakers blared throughout the day and scores of vehicles were hired by every candidate.

The jeeps engaged in campaign would throw pamphlets. The children would run after these vehicles and often got parties' badges and symbols.

But the high-decibel campaigns are now history. In the post-TN Seshan era, the Election Commission (EC) managed to rein in the parties.

The huge expenses were brought under control. It was indeed a positive step. But yes, sometimes, one looks back and recalls how colourful elections were in those days.

In fact, in the recently concluded election, there was such lacklustre campaign that sometime even residents were not sure about the candidates.

While most of the people were aware of the Congress and BJP candidates due to newspapers or their hoardings, not much was known about who else was in the fray [independents, smaller parties].

There were few banners and posters. Contestants were also worried about EC and were over-cautious. They feared that if they were found guilty of higher expenses, then the EC would crack the whip.

Nobody wanted trouble when the model code of conduct is in effect. Officials keep record of all expenses. Recently, a journalist asked an EC official at a press conference about the 'dull and silent campaign'.

The officer said, "Do you like that you wake up in the morning and find your wall painted with a political party's symbol?' The man who posed the question, had nothing to say now.

True, there was huge money involved earlier. Even booths were captured in those days. Now there is enough force deployed that criminal elements and other trouble-makers are restrained. Even though the campaign wasn't too loud, there were banners and posters on prominent places and on road sides.

Surprisingly, the BJP even campaigned in English. This is the first occasion when in North India, [at least in this region], we saw any mainstream party using English in its 'chunav prachar' [election campaign in English, intekhabi tash'heer, in Urdu]. 

Shivraj Singh Chouhan was portrayed as a man with vision, BJP as party with the difference.

Congress listed its own achievements and made promises, as you can see in this billboard in Hindi.

It says what the party has done for Dalits [Scheduled Castes (SCs)] and the Tribals [Scheduled Tribes (STs)].

Other parties were not visible much. A Communist Party of India's (CPI) candidate Shailendra Shaili's poll campaign begins with a famous poet's couplet.

The Communist party candidate who is more active on the ground, has campaigned extensively in Urdu.

Starting with 35 kg ration for every family at a rate of 1 Rupee per kg, it goes a long way in terms of promises.

The CPI contestant wants Urdu given status of a second official language of the state and taking stern action against communal elements.

There is also a lot about the steps to be taken to improve financial condition of labourers, implementation of Sachar panel report et al.

Now the elections are over. The candidates are resting and the fate is now sealed in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

All eyes are now on counting, which will take place a few days later. Then, after a few months, we will all see the campaign for the general elections [Parliamentary polls].

Let's see, how goes the campaigns of political parties then.

[Above are photographs showing Congress, BJP and CPI banners, posters during the Assembly election campaign in Madhya Pradesh. All these photos have copyright of this BLOG]