Column: A Far Cry From The Vibrant Indian Elections

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: Being used to the boisterous and colourful election campaigns in India I find the ongoing campaign for the Christmas elections in this country strangely quiet and drab. There are no banners and posters, no loudspeaker mounted vehicles blaring out songs and slogans and no processions with dance and music. For us Indians, who believe in celebrating the great festival of democracy on a grand scale, cost be damned, this campaign is a big disappointment.

My journalist friend, who is based here as the UK and Europe editor of a highly respected Indian newspaper, informs me that there will be door to door campaigning by candidates but the “shor sharba ” of Indian polls will definitely be missing. There will be TV debates and newspapers are likely to take sides, some very blatantly, but neither the leaders nor the newspapers will ever cross their limits. “This is very well understood, ” he tells me.

Be that as it may but I find this entire affair extremely boring, not only from the point of view of lack of colour and pageantry but also because of the complete absence of enthusiasm among the voters. Most that I have spoken to so far appear disinterested. They are not even willing to debate Brexit, the most important issue on which these elections are being held. They appear resigned to whatever happens on the Brexit front after the elections.

There seems to be a certain amount of poll weariness, a sense of déjà vu. There is perhaps also a sense of frustration and anger at elections being held around the Christmas time, something which has happened but rarely in the past. With the yuletide spirit already sweeping the country no one seems to be in a mood for elections or for politics in general.

I cannot agree more with the following observations of a respected newspaper columnist on the present mood of the people: “Large chunks of the public seem weary and ill-disposed to both main parties; to ask a lot of people who they might vote for is to invite long sighs and eye-rolls, and suggestions that the whole thing is ridiculous. It has always been the case that when politicians, party activists, and the media dissolve in excitement and passion, most people tend to keep their distance. But now the gap is so big, and political outcomes seemingly so random, that there is a resulting sense of big events happening almost by accident.”

A perspicacious observer he comments on the “ludicrous idea” that this contest is about Brexit that would soon be get done by the Tories or the Labour’s obsession with austerity and inequality or maybe a mixture of both. “ The extent to which the public buys into these narratives is open to question: three years of anticlimactic pantomime over Brexit have only increased people’s distance from politics, and 40-odd years of dealignment and waning loyalties apparently mean that nearly half of us might switch to a different party from the one we backed in 2017,” he writes. That should set warning bells ringing in the Conservative camp. But there is no reason for Labour leaders to be happy either because poll fatigue seems to have set in among the voters, which is not a good sign.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)