Sanjeev Kotnala: Dear Election Commission: Who Is The Candidate From My Area

15 Oct,2014

By Sanjeev Kotnala


I am told there is election today in Mumbai and Rest of Maharashtra. And I would not have believed that but for the inked fingers on my Facebook timelines and the flurry of full pages in newspapers over the last two days.


I am from an old school of Election frenzy. Having helped Sharad Yadav collect funds when he first stood for election from Jabalpur. I hope country forgives me for that mistake in judgment. Have stayed as late as till 2 am to listen to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayeejee. And have listened to local orchestra filling up for a late-latif VIP. The current socially hyperactive intrinsically digital generation is unfortunately missing the fun.


Earlier there were massive clues for you to know elections were on. People would go door-to-door canvasing. Every corner would become a rally point with crowds contributing towards a hugely chaotic traffic. Loudspeakers, posters, pamphlets and full-page print ads would keep you company.


Blame it on the Election Commission for taking out the juice from elections. Restricting a ridiculous low piggybank amount as the spending limit. Coming down heavy on Paid News. Local administration added time and decibel limits. No late loud broadcast of a local meeting. EC minutely scrutinises use of flowery language by candidates. Elections now are seriously no fun.


There are no ads in newspapers and I don’t mean the full pages. Print under the disguise of responsible media still grudgingly covers elections. It’s more of an optimist attitude refusing the death of a cash cow. The socially responsible  (LOL) debates in news channels are a blindspot. They anyway shout in this manner throughout the year.


But, some media are benefiting from the EC’s low spending limit and really addressing the vote bank. Radio is on an overdrive. Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and other are busy finding their voice in multiple languages. Shiv Sena spots in English and BJP in Marathi can be heard. Organized outdoor is sporadic again crumbling under the expense limit. Social media has been sort of keeping low.


But what do you do when you are not aware of the candidates in your zone. You do have 3-4 choices. NOTA: most likely you will not use this as a meek protest and just a statistical item on news coverage. You are unlikely to vote for a candidate you do not know. Not voting is not an option. How will the Selfie happen? May be you will vote for a party and not a candidate. And that would be the failure of the Indian democratic process.


Blame it squarely on the Election Commission. By capping the expenditure at a ludicrously low amount, EC has in fact done disservice to the nation. Indian elections were meant to be democratically challenging. Parties and candidates should have collectively decided your vote. Social media-dominated General elections have shown how damaging party-led voting can be. As unknown and even ill-famous candidates have taken advantage of party tsunami.


EC limit is like the INR 35 poverty line. Absurd. How can a new candidate (mostly independent) be expected to reach out to the masses about qualification, achievement and challenges or just Why should public elect them. In one stroke this has ensured death of individual candidates.


Mayb e when our RIGHT TO INFORMATION is being denied by this act of EC, it is time for government-sponsored neutral election communication.  Let EC use any media or medium but communicate in the local language and English. Just tell the voters about the candidates, their picture, achievement, assets and criminal record etc. For candidates seeking re-election add usage of last funds. May it would somewhat negate EC fault that is leading the country dangerously towards a full-blown silent soft party led elections.


And while we are at it, ensure elections are held on weekend or Wednesdays to bring down incidence of weekend clubbing for holidays. And introduce compulsory voting.  If you do not vote without a valid reason, you should be a fined an Election Tax. Your right to question government or seek government jobs stands withdrawn.


Above is a full-blown orgasmic fantasy: till then let me go and vote for a party and shout loud on the Social Media. I am a socially responsible citizen!




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