Nearly a year and a half of observing Delhi politics as a resident reaches a peak today as the city heads to the polls in the national election. Having listened to dozens of different theories on what the outcome will be in India’s fractious parliamentary system, soon enough it will all be clear. <Or not?>
While the international media has just kicked off its coverage of the latest installment of the greatest democratic event in history, the political situation in Delhi always seems near the center of life here. It has certainly ramped up in recent weeks though.
Every day for the past few weeks I’ve been greeted by a barrage of YouTube and Facebook ads from both Congress and BJP. Both parties seem pretty savvy when it comes to these ads. Some appear as basic sponsored posts, but others are a bit more clever, where it shows you which of your friends have liked a particular party (without seeming like a sponsored post).
An interesting research project for someone is to analyze the difference, if any, between digital versus grassroots electoral campaigns. How does a party’s messaging differ between digitally connected voters and those without access to electricity? It’s also interesting to note that while I get several junk SMS from restaurants and spas (don’t ask me why) every day, I can’t recall too many–if at all– from political parties.
You can’t travel too many places in Delhi without knowing an election is taking place. Posters are everywhere, especially bus stations and billboards. They’re in Hindi, which I need some help with. But I was able to figure out the one for a smiling Rahul Gandhi: “Main nahi, hum (Not I, We)”. On other hand, no translation was needed for a Shepard Fairey-inspired Narendra Modi Hope poster on the Delhi metro.
A few weeks ago I was able to attend an event where Dr. Kapur and others presented the results of their huge survey on election attitudes. It was very interesting. I’ve been conducting less formal polling of all my auto drivers. Definitely less robust, but we’ll see if it’s the same outcome.
I’ve also been learning what, to an American, are some real peculiarities of the Indian parliamentary system. Modi, the CM of Gujarat, is contesting from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh? And he’s contesting from Vadodara at the same time? Very strange to me.
While politics is continuously buzzing in Delhi, it still feels like a short election cycle. I’m actually surprised it’s here so soon. I think that has to be an advantage of the parliamentary system if you can avoid the huge marathon US-style campaigns I’m used to.
This election is obviously a big one for India. A lot will probably change. But I’m sure, whatever the outcome, Arnab Goswami will have something to talk <read shout> about.