Changing nature of poll battles

The Karnataka Assembly election scene shows how the nature of poll campaigning has changed in the last decade or so. With the coming of the digital age, there is relentless battle of propaganda and counter-propaganda between the major contestants to influence public opinion. A new genre of propaganda is the totally false accusations, supported by false documents that target the rival party and its candidates. This has added a new phrase to the political lexicon: Fake News. There are regular websites that purvey fake news all round the year but go into an overdrive when elections come. Then there is the social media which is used not only to malign parties and their candidates but are ruthlessly in ‘trolling’ a person who dares – and expresses – an opinion or a remark which one party thoroughly disapproves of. It is a no-holds-barred battle in which winning is the goal and the means to attain that goal are of no consequence.
The voter is often confused to decide who stands for what and for whom. A political leader or a candidate is publicly run down but privately wooed. A leader is accused of rank corruption one day, and praised the very next day for his supposed ‘sacrifices’ for or contributions to the cause of the people. The individual voter is more confused than ever before and finds it difficult to make up his mind about this party or that party, about this candidate or that candidate. In the olden days, political parties entered the electoral battle to inform the electorate where they stand on specific socio-political and socio-economic issues. The aim was to inform the people, to enlighten the people about these issues and what the party issuing the election manifesto wants to deal with the problem and how. All that has changed.
Ruling parties – whether in the States or at the Centre – are routinely accused of ‘rigging’ either by preventing other parties from campaigning or subjecting them to physical attacks, or by tampering with the EVM machines. Even the impartiality of the Election Commission is questioned – as happened when, during the Gujarat elections, the EC did not announce the poll date for Gujarat along with that of Himachal Pradesh. The result was that the ruling party got a few more extra days to announced sops in Gujarat which would not have been possible if the poll dates for both States were announced simultaneously. The changing nature of poll campaigning is posing an unprecedented challenge to the critical faculties of the voter as well.

Saturday, 5 May, 2018