What happens to our democracy when political class approach political consultancies for voter engagement. General Election 2014 is a testimony to the fact that our political culture is on the brink of a transformation. Corporate, consultancies, reputation managers, media advertisement, event managers, paid publicity campaigners, etc are likely to decide on the politics of the day.
16 May 2014, on the election result day pundits and political experts were claiming several things as usual, on media that made all of us get fun of all the poll predictions, trend analysis and so on. However, among the many one thing striking amid the verbatim was that Indian election was transforming something like Presidential campaigning model in USA.
Brainstorming by image experts, lobyyists, corporate houses, technocrats, activists, brand gurus, poll analysts and media watchers, in fact the election result has tersely seemed depending up on many third factors. It reminded us of the 2008 Obama campaign. Now, Indian politics, in particular election campaign has been transforming towards a complex network of business, contract, advertisement industry, media, celebrities, propaganda, corporate, branding, reputation management and so on.
This is visible every where in India, from north to south, for example, on April 2014, on a TV talk on ?why pre-poll?, reputed political scientist and leading psephologist in Kerala, Dr. G Gopakaumar shared his experiences of managing request from political parties on the possibility of conducting election surveys for them to seek out attitude of electorate. He has shared what in deed, sweeping across India?s electoral scenario is publicity management and advertisement campaign on contractual basis.
Political campaigning has seemingly outsourced to event managers and this in effect, unleashed a new kind of political culture steered by a fleet of corporate outlets formed on cities and mid size towns. A more vivid expression of this exhibition politics has been traceable in Kerala, for example, in form of Flex democracy, a spectacular scenario where known to the unknown politicians across the political spectre displaying their self-styling flexes. Flexes of politicians were in deed looking like real estate ad where political class has been using self-expressing flexes for even the silliest of things they have done in the name of governance and democracy, to say, filling mud on potholed roads. Across roads in Kerala
from north to south, this flex culture has invited anxiety among the many lovers of deliberative and participatory democracy, as they doubt it may derail the very foundation of true politics.
Flex democracy has seemingly attracted even the left cadre in Kerala where the party men have been using tall filmy flex across the town square and streets even in rural areas. Similarly V M Sudheeran, the much hyped and image keeping president of KPCC has been cautioning of flex democracy creeping across the Congress party and ruining the party of its mass basis and in his district committee address at Calicut he even lamented the stupidity of party men of self publicity via self flexing.
Mr. Narendra Modi
, Mr. Shashi Tharoor
, and Mr. Ashok Gehlot
according to a sting operation by cobrapost have, over a half of their Facebook
Likes, fake. The cobrapost operation revealed that there is paid campaign by political class in social media. Across different Indian cities, corporate outfits operate as consulting firms to stage-manage fake publicity campaigns for political class and they list out names of politicians who sought their consulting services. The names include big players such as C P Joshi, Milind Deora. Such consulting outlets in fact, surveys voter sentiments and suggest probable electoral strategies for political parties.
The prime time news hour debate have become mocking on Indian democracy as political parties appoint trained spokes persons to defend party on the screens with polished languages. Famed journalist tries their best to get a word from the ruling class to increase TRP rate by sensationalizing even a minuscule human error from the leader. Sathyan Anthikkad, the famed film director in Kerala in his political satire movie Oru Indian Pranayakath (An Indian Love Story) has acerbically portrayed the TV mania of political workers, and this film, in deed was a timely intervention on the demeaning political culture of Keralites.
Mr. K N Balagopal, Rajya Sabha M P from Kerala has shared his experience on 23 April 2014 at Press Club, Trivandrum that he knows Lok Sabha candidate in Haryana
demanding Helicopter for campaigning during election season as politicians now began to see it as a status symbol. Reports are that in Tamil Nadu
an invisible table of expense deciding who will win the election as money decides everything.
Politicians consult for election campaign management. Political parties are increasingly gambling on specialists to manage their political campaigns. Political consultancy is a thriving commercial event, not just in cities but also in small towns and rural areas.The advent of social websites and the growing influence of platforms on voter behaviour have led to the mushrooming of political consultancy firms over the years and their number range on 50 to 100 according to reports.
Gurgaon based political consultancy firm Political Edge in their website www.politicaledge.in/claims that it gives EDGE over the political opponents by giving scientifically correct and unbiased feedback on the constituency through Polling Booth Profiling, Right Information Flow, Voter Profiling, Corrective Measures Needed Analysis of Stacked Information and Strategic Planning for future. Their products are e-Val, CIMS, e-ORG and voter segmentation.
Emergence of more tech-savvy and aspirational voters during general election 2014 has compelled many parties to rope in professional consultancy firms to reach out to and maintain a connection with the voters. It is not a surprise then to hear something like ?Hello, this is your MP speaking. In fact, I wish you a very happy birthday and apologies for not being able to attend your celebrations. Hope, I will try to meet you the next time I visit the locality?. Some other day one may listen to voice call saying, ?Hi, I am your candidate contesting from your constituency during Lok Sabha election 2014 and please give a chance for me for making your dreams come true. Quite a surprise and this seems the future of electoral politics and voter engagements in a highly mediated and ad-ridden world
of Indian democracy.
Election Awaaz, a Gurgaon-based political consultancy firm says in its website www.electionawaaz.com/ that it is an election technology
company, which provides resources created to provide WINNING solutions for all electioneering needs under one roof. Hiring specialists to manage election campaigns, a concept quite popular in the west, has taken roots in India
due to the changing political environment here. Moreover, candidates hire political consultants for speech writing and media management like giving interviews
to local dailies and channels and analysis of news relevant to their constituency to ensure that they strike the right chord during their public rallies.
These agencies reportedly charge huge sums from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 lakh depending on the services.There are over a hundred political consulting firms in the country as per reports and they are reportedly expected to rake in up to 800 crore during general elections.
Delhi-based Poltubaaz, started on 2012 to provide election management and strategic solutions to political parties says in its websites www.poltubaaz.com/that it provides analytical and strategic solutions to Political Parties with accurate and actionable research and analysis.
Reports are that many rural candidates develop their own campaign strategy based on inputs given by consultants mainly on voters' sentiments and socio-economic state of their constituency. The NaMo model, The Kejariwal model, Rahul Model, Tharoor Model, different political campaigning model has come over the age addressing a new sort political audience different from the conventional sort of audience and political communication channels.
In deed, the increasing migration of political class towards publicity management and advertisement politics and the rise of flex democracy, subsequent time line battles in Facebook, and increasing political conspiracies in fifth estate has derailed the democracy. The rise of political consulting firms in Indian cities, the growing media mocking of democracy, increasing political sensationalism and futile TV debates; all show up the triumph of a new style of Indian politics. Now politics at bumpy streets, voter engagement at town square, meeting the voters at their doorsteps has all become an ancient ideal. What happens to politics after the street politics, nothing but it is the end of street politic, and rise of marketing politics.
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