He fought elections without money and muscle power

The polling is over and the results are awaited. Tomorrow is the Day and it will be interesting to see how things pan out.

Well, political leaders come to you when they want votes; after elections, they usually disappear and don’t come back to you again. But there are people who are different. One such is N.S.Venkataraman, the candidate for the South Chennai parliamentary constituency, who resides in Besant Nagar. I received his email and this is what he has to say (there are some pertinent points he raises) about "his election campaign without money power and muscle power":

I carried out the election campaign without money power and muscle power and with great dignity, scrupulously adhering to the guidelines provided by the Election Commission of India. My theme of campaign was to restore probity in public life and Gandhian standards in the national agenda. Whatever may be the outcome of the election, I am happy that the Gandhian principles was effectively highlighted in my election campaign as the need of the day and to my knowledge no other political party or candidate has done this anywhere in India.

Apart from others, a number of differently-abled persons and visually impaired persons belonging to lower income group campaigned for me without expecting any rewards and this is a highly satisfying aspect of my campaign.

At the outset, I desire to congratulate the Election Commission and the police for the exemplary manner in which they conducted themselves in organising this election under extremely tough conditions. I have absolutely no complaints and my respect for police and Election Commission have gone up several folds after completion of the campaign.

May I describe my experience below in the campaign.

I was allotted the election symbol only on 27th April and I could effectively start the campaign only on 29th April, with the handbills printed with election symbol. Therefore, the candidates of small parties like me and independents were left with hardly thirteen days for effective election campaign.

The Election Commission banned campaign through SMS which effectively prevented the low-cost election campaign method to reach individual voters. I do not understand the logic of banning SMS messages during the election campaign. The Election Commission could have exempted the cost towards SMS messages in the election expense statement of the candidates. While several candidates and political parties did send SMS messages in defiance of the directive of the Election Commission, I did not do so and might have lost some advantages due to my strict adherence to the directives of the Election Commission in this regard.

Door-to-door campaigning became extremely difficult for any candidate since the general public, particularly the middle and the upper income group, appear to be averse to receive the campaigners at their door step , which may be due to security reasons or the image associated with an average politician in the country today. The kalyana mandapams and several other meeting halls refused to provide the premises for election campaign for political parties, possibly due to the fear of any unpleasant happenings. The Election Commission also issued some sort of directives to kalyana mandapams not to allow the premises to hold political meetings. This effectively prevented space for holding campaign meetings where some sort of interactive discussions could have taken place.

Several housing complexes refused to allow small campaign meetings in their premises and insisted that the handbills should be delivered only at the gate, possibly due to the poor image of the politicians and political parties.There is no space to hold public meetings in many places due to traffic congestion. Police earmarked specific places for holding public meeting which might not have suited the political parties in several cases.

Many TV channels are owned by several political parties Smaller parties and independents who do not own such TV channels were at a great disadvantage.
The telecast facilities in Doordarshan and the broadcast facilities in AIR were not provided to the smaller parties and independents.

Under the circumstances, the options available for me were to spread message by word of mouth, by opening website, by emails, inserting pamphlets in newspapers and carrying out street campaign and holding small group meetings, wherever possible. Some of the newspapers also insisted that campaign handbills should not be inserted in their newspapers.

While a lot of noise are made in the street campaign by every political party including myself, some with special gimmicks to attract the attention of the passers by, I do not know as to how effective such street campaigns are in spreading the message, since large number of voters are not in the streets all the time and those on the streets often appear to be lost in their own thoughts.

I carried out my election campaign just spending around Rs. 2 lakh. My campaign style was to print 2.5 lakh handbills and distribute it across the constituency by inserting in newspapers and distributing with the help of supporters. In addition, a website was designed by several software professionals which became very popular. I addressed several small group meetings in addition to the street campaign for twelve days for a period of four hours on each day. I could not meet many many voters in person since the effective campaign time available for me was hardly thirteen days. I largely relied on spreading my campaign message through word of mouth and handbills. I relied on the power of truth , which is my election theme , to spread by itself.

On the whole, I am thoroughly satisfied with the style and quality of my campaign and I am awaiting for the results. This style of campaign may look much different from that of other candidates and political parties but this is how it should be.


Sreejith said…
I doff my hat to you, Sir.. Whatever the outcome, you conducted your campaign with dignity.. cheers!!

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