Friday, March 6, 2009

What happened to election festival?

As long as I can remember the past, elections in India were celebrated with energy and jubilation like any religious festival. Way back from times when I was 10 year old kid to now, I feel the energy and jubilation for an election has worn down considerably. Though there are number of factors which have changed over this period of time, it is difficult to pin down the exact reason for the change. This is an attempt to remember the lost glory of the election period and to list down some of the factors which might have affected the change.

In the earlier days, during any election, whole city had a colourful look. The colours were the different colours representing the different brands of the political parties. Typically the roads, buildings, bridges etc. in the main business areas would be garlanded with the party symbol printed on a flashy plastic paper. This garlands sort of provided a pleasant and festival look to the main business areas of the city. I guess, it also made it pleasant as some of these political parties would have used creative brains to identify the colours which they use.

I had always been fascinated with the creativity and the artistic nature of the folks who would do the cut-outs of the leaders. In the election season one could see the cut-outs of the majority of the leaders in every nook and corner of the city standing in different forms and shapes. Two cut-outs never looked the same, and the leaders would be wearing a different dress in each of the cut-out. Mostly the dress and colour of the cut-outs were designed to catch the eyes instantly. Mostly, all the cut-outs always would have been garlanded with the some sort of flashy material; even flowers were used to garland the cut-outs some times. I believe, when the fresh flowers were used in garlands, it would be changed before the flowers dried-up. These cut-outs always looked fresh and showed the leaders always in happy/positive mood. I think, with all these colours, happy faces; the cut-outs gave sort of very good feeling to move around in the city.

Auto-rickshaws were used heavily in the campaigning during the election days. A typical auto-rickshaw would be fixed with a loud speaker and with the cassette player. One could always hear a tune of a hit movie song, which would be plagiarized, and lyrics would represent the greatness of the leader, good work of the party, manifesto of the party, a meaningless jiggle about the symbol etc. etc. Though most of the songs used to be hardly bearable, going with the 80-20 rule, there would be some songs which would be brilliant. Most of the songs were always bearable for the first time because of the different type of lyrics on a famous tune. Some times, the owners of this auto-rickshaw would stop the cassette, hold the microphone and make the announcements, shout party slogans, shower praises on the leader, reminding public of the election day (Remember "Mareyadiri matha Bandhavare, Marethu Nirasharaagadiri" ??), reminding of the party symbol etc. etc. Generally speaking, these guys always had a good voice, and sometimes if we were lucky, we would have announcer who would turn himself into a orator, making a instant speech. If we are more lucky, sometimes these guys turn out to be witty and get us into a instant laugh. There are scenarios I remember, when everybody in the house were out on the street when one of campaigners would make a really witty speech.

As kids, whenever an election auto-rickshaw came to our street, we always used to run behind it, and one of the campaigners would throw the pamphlets with election manifesto on it. God knows why we saw this as fun, but anyways we always followed the principle of running behind the election auto. This used to be the scene in the most streets during the election days earlier. I even remember, reading some of these pamphlets, and obviously making boats and airplanes out of the pamphlets.

During the evenings, one could see most elders standing outside in the compound of their house discussing about the elections with neighbours. As kids, though we were playing something on the street, we could always make out a good discussion. The conversation would get very dramatic sometimes, with the individual showing his strong like or dislike towards a party or a thing. In such scenarios, the other people who are discussing in different groups would join the group fuelling the discussion into more dramatic moments. As kids, though we would not enjoy the content of the discussion, always joined the group and listen to the discussion. God knows, what we used to think, probably it was just entertaining to see a dramatic discussion between neighbours.

All the above is what can be termed as preparation for the festival. On the festival day, that is the voting day, one could see all people dressed in better dress (I can’t say the best) than what they daily wear, moving in groups to the election booth. I think, the best part of a festival other than the food is, everybody in the neighbourhood is on there best attires, with new cloths and in a happy mood. The voting day, always provided this view as most people would go to voting booths, with better attires, and with a sense of purpose and hope in their mind. One could see every bodies face lit-up to the task of voting, and as a kid, I always felt happy on those days without purpose.

Lot of things have changed today, we cannot see much cut-out’s, we cannot see the Garland of party symbols beautifying the streets, Auto-rickshaws with loud speakers have vanished, election songs is not there and unfortunately I cannot see much discussion among the neighbours on election subject. These days neighbours mainly discuss about some program on TV. I think over 20 years number of factors have affected the bringing down the festivity of an election,

  1. Television gaining in prominence as main source of information for the public
  2. Frequency of elections increasing dramatically
  3. Increase in immaturity of the political leaders and the parties
  4. Civic authorities believing that Party symbol garlands, cut-outs, loud speakers etc. reduces the beauty of the city
  5. Election commission controlling the spend of political parties by tightening the rules etc.

Whatever is the reason, I am not sure if we are going to get back the glory days of election festival back in our society.

I miss the fun of election festival.

-- Madhukar Hebbar


Gulmohar said...

Yup..running behind the Auto for green/Orange colored pamplets was fun:)
The most interesting election for me was the one in the year 1998(Corporator election in Mysore). I was a volunteer for the Booth for the sake of a free lunch, ciggies, coffee/tea, 100 bucks and a quarter of some crap spirit!!

Critic said...

Mareyadiri mata bandhavare
maretu nirasharaga diri

Astakke mata, idey desakke ita
kamalakke mata, desakke ita
ane guratige mata, yella janangakke ita

VidyaShankar Harapanahalli said...

Not to forget Radio... I have seen people listening to radio for speeches and election results as if they were possessed...

Shetty said...

True mate, forget election festival even normal festivals are not celebrated. There is a general lack of spirit!!