Dec 17, 2013

Of Elections in the Largest Democracy

A certain boy in a certain corner of the country once told his father, "I want to be a politician."
"Stop this nonsense and go back to study," came the reply.

Do you know what was the mistake of that kid? He was unfortunate enough to be born in India, ironically the world's largest democracy.

The general politician is an illiterate. He gets up lazily in his big mansion, which a party salary can not buy even in ten lifetimes. He is surrounded by servants, who take care not just of all his needs, but those of his family, uncles, nephews and sometimes neighbors. Unless it's campaigning, he would probably not even bother to step out of his villa. He watches the day making calls to get things done, including and not limited to intimidating witnesses in the criminal case pending against him.

Manik Sarkar
India is a really big country and that is not true for every politician. Take for example Tripura Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, whose affidavit for the 2013 Tripura Assembly Elections valued his bank deposits at just over ₹10000 ($165), which is perhaps the lowest among all the chief ministers in the country. He donates all his income to his party, and takes just a stipend of ₹5000. He also doesn't have any property to his name.

The general idea of Indian politics highly discourages the bright minds to go into it. It's generally seen that the sons of existing leaders are given party tickets and it's presumed difficult for a good individual to get into the fray. Politics is considered dirty, but no one seems to be ready to clean it. That being said, the need of the hour is to get certain things right. Perhaps, the youth can be targeted by portraying a clean image.

One important step is to get the right people out in the spotlight. As Chetan Bhagat said in a recent newsroom debate after the Delhi elections, "Being good is the new cool," I guess it's time the political parties project the right people and encourage their candidates to do it the right way! Only then will the marketing strategies work. However, that is just half the work done- how do you encourage the masses to vote?

The other day, a friend (who is also a web developer) asked me if I waned to hear something funny and forwarded me the link to the background music of the website of a well known political party. And yes, it was damn funny. Can't you guys hire a decent web developer? Or better, use WordPress!

If you want to involve the youth, you have got to appeal to them through a medium that they see fit- and whether you like it or now- it's the internet. Ironically enough, by ignoring such channels, political parties are losing out a fair share of exposure. Technological advancements have made the world a global village and reaching out to the masses hasn't been any easier.

A snap from Didi's Facebook page

The power of the social media can't be ignored. Many politicians have taken to Facebook and Twitter to engage with their supporters. Be it Mamata Banerjee's Facebook page or Shashi Tharoor's Twitter feed- the response has been pretty strong! Naturally, the simple conclusion here is that social networks are an integral part of campaigning now.

At the time when people tweet from the washroom and every Tom, Dick and Harry owns an Android, a BlackBerry or an iPhone, mobile apps are the way to go. For instance, the BJP Android app seems to have gained 10k-50k downloads, and has a good rating. This enables people to get information, including photos and videos of each and every rally! What that does is make the idea of campaigning popular among the users.

The AAP donation list
The popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party (I'd have preferred a better logo though) has a lot to do with its online presence. Founder Arvind Kejriwal has been very active on Twitter, so has the official account of Aam Aadmi Party. When there were allegations of illegal funding, AAP replied with publishing the list of all the donations on their website. Such actions only make you look better.

Coming back to other uses of technology, Narendra Modi took the use of technology in campaigning to an all new level during the Gujarat elections last year. His 3D interactions guaranteed him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most simultaneous broadcasts of a 3D illusion (53). Not only does that make you look fancy, it also saves tremendous amounts of time wasted in travelling!

Times are changing and politics must change too! The Delhi elections show that laying back doing nothing will just get you counted in 'Others'. The old vote bank politics do not work any more because the common man has become frustrated and in turn, is coming out to vote. The jump in voter turn out is a sign of better things to come. After all, we are the biggest democracy and it's high time we form a people's government.

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