Ad nauseam

Updated on: Mar 31, 2014

Just because they are not littering the landscape doesn’t mean you have escaped political ads

There is one thing to be said for technology — it does help reduce litter. This time around, the elections haven’t been accompanied by quite the same amount of election-related rubbish that usually accumulates in our public and private spaces during campaign time. There are not so many leaflets clogging one’s mailbox or littering the streets, which themselves have been defaced far less than they usually are by political posters, hoardings, wall paintings, cutouts and other such assorted electoral litter.

They have been replaced by other things which, although not directly depleting rainforests and adding to urban sanitation challenges at quite the same rate, are nevertheless polluting in a much more insidious way.

Political parties have largely replaced their physical attempts to get the requisite ‘opportunity to see’ from voters with digital substitutes. The good thing about the radio and television campaigns and the social media and email bombardments which have taken the place of the traditional posters, banners and handbills is that they do not add to physical litter, and (in some cases at least!), offer delete options.

But there is a limit to which one can set up filters and blocks, so there is no escaping the radio spots, the party songs, the Twitter trolls and the Facebook pushes, not to speak of unexpected guerrilla attacks through WhatsApp and Viber and what have you.

The Centre for Media Studies has estimated that the current elections will inject some ₹30,000 crore into the economy. This would be a good thing if it weren’t for the fact that most of this would be in the black economy, with currency notes stuffing the pockets of party workers and goons, the envelopes of voters and the cash registers of liquor vends.

Still, it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good. Media channels, including digital and social media, will see at least ₹2,000 crore of this money. Perhaps an equal amount, according to some estimates, will make its way illegally into the media, via invidious ‘paid news’ campaigns. Automobile sales — especially of SUVs — will climb, and a whole host of small industries, from khadi co-ops to cap-makers, will see a quinquennial surge in business.

Whether all this will actually help win elections, though, is another question altogether. 2004, the year it all began with ‘India shining’, is clearly long forgotten.

Associate Editor

Published on March 31, 2014

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