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The 16th Indian National Elections!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

 

It is interesting to see the recent Indian election circus, this was definitely a different one (and to say the clichéd argument, ‘most important ever’, will also hold true). This was one election campaign with fiery emotions all around, with the highest ever money spent. It is estimated that 30000 crores INR were spent on these elections alone by different parties, as per EC.

 

Just a few observations, based on empirical analysis:

 

  • Highest ever money spent on elections

It is said that politicians have large stakes in FIIs although these are foreign investments. Political uncertainty in 2013 has kept FIIs away leading to weakening rupee. Rupee reached levels of 69 and now is at a level of 58. Imagine you traded this amount; you are atleast at a profit of 15%! Huge amount of money spent in elections has probably lead to a cycle of falling real estate prices, falling share prices before election time and a booming market post-elections. Liquidity in the market was weak pre-election time and the same is starting to float in market. Now, you have large amount of money spent in media, liquor, etc.  during election time. Hopefully, this cash starts floating around and ongoing liquidity crisis weakens with time. And so much so for the money, India has even been witnessing a near stagflation scenario from past few months. CPI had reached a 240-month high very recently. Of course, it is not just elections to blame for this, there were other factors like political uncertainty, scams, prevalent corruption, etc. But for sure, a nearing election does remain an important variable in the whole equation.

The amount spent on these elections was predicted to be at least 3 times than the amount in 2009 elections!

 

Image

Image Credit: AMA Television Network

 

  • Increasing role of social media

I believe half the elections are predicted by simply looking at content and memes spreading on Facebook/Twitter, etc. this is true even of state level elections. There are multiple factors that could be attributed, i.e. India’s median age at 26 and presence of an extremely high number of young citizens on social media irrespective of income category. It was clear in Delhi before the election started when widespread support for AAP and BJP was omnipresent on FB. In the general elections, anti-Rahul Gandhi, anti-Sonia Gandhi and anti-incumbency messages were afloat all over. Slowly, widespread support for BJP and their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was observed over Facebook and Twitter. 2009 general elections were not fiery as much as these elections were, and presence on social media of Indians did not predict outcome of elections to such an extent.

Managing social media definitely is a key concern for all political parties here onwards; there are no 2 thoughts about this. With 60 crores of population in India in the age-group of 0-26, could you imagine there are 2 crores likely to join every year on Facebook and Twitter if we are to consider the pre-teens and toddlers?!? And yes, I am not saying online marketing. That is equivalent to managing PR as what politicians say or do goes on media firms like NDTV, HT/ET, etc which already have enough online presence. My argument is specifically for the case of managing social media. The choice of Digital India as predicted finally won, BJP won with a historic 284 seats!

Look at the anti-incumbency from Tunisia to other parts of Arab world to Istanbul, Kiev and Tehran. It is social media that is acting as a newsfeed for the young, not the traditional media which are often state controlled in these nation-states.

 

  • Anti-incumbency, anti-dynasty vote

This has come up even before. But, people are now against dynasty politics like never before. This election for a vast majority has been to oppose existing government and oppose dynasty of Nehru-Gandhi family. People are not just okay with Rahul Gandhi becoming an important seat in INC only by virtue of birth. The lesser said the better. The anti-dynasty vote was prevalent from quite some time. Even in 2009, it was due to visibility of Manmohan Singh that helped them to a large extent.

I cannot remember any time when someone hailing from an important political family is being derided on social media and every possible medium so humiliatingly. Please live a royal life, please settle abroad, please invest in business, do anything that can make your name, but people want only candidates coming from ground, who have struggled to reach their zenith to come in power. All other parties had candidates without any major dynasty background dictating terms. And this helped them unanimously.

It is the never-seen-before anti-incumbency sentiment that has even given rise to regional parties and new parties like AAP setting up.

 

  • PM Candidate, much like the US President like campaign

Entire campaigning was centred on PM candidates like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. This was started by BJP, followed by INC. The party manifestos did not really have a meaning, what the PM candidates said mattered more for the media and ordinary citizens. The 2009 elections were similar with Manmohan Singh and LK Advani as prime ministerial candidates but there was no direct declaration by any party on who would be the PM. It was more about assumption but not reported directly as found in these elections. This tradition of campaigning by PM candidates did exist before, but we did never saw it as pronounced as this time. CM of a state had been campaigning throughout nation because he was the PM candidate and the party brought any changes required.

 

  • Less Bribes; More Diatribes

This is probably the only election when we have heard less of bribes and more of diatribes. All throughout the election, it was a high decibel campaign where mud-slinging was rampart. Candidates were even blacklisted, provided with warnings for the level of personal attacks and politically incorrect statements made. This was the first time when a PM candidate had been throwing personal attacks on other PM candidate and opposition party candidates. The general Indian population has always equalled a PM with humble nature and a respected figure; recent ones include Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Narsimha Rao to put a few cases in point. However, we had seen Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi spit venom against each other and other opposition members wherever possible. All other party members of major political parties had something to speak of at all possible moments.

 

  • High Emotion Drama

This is something typical of any election. But, this was the time when for the first time I have seen people getting swayed by all diatribes by politicians. One look over your Facebook wall anytime in March and April, and you will find Congress, Samajwadi party, AAP and BJP spokesperson all over! People were actually arguing with intensity on the side of their politicians. And these are professional urban class people that I am talking about. Where is the usual argument, ‘they are all politicians!’, where are the data facts and statistics, where is the sane view?!? Politicians have traditionally made tall claims about their work, and this went to a real high level this time. We have a politician say ‘Muslim soldiers fought in Kargil War’ while another had saying, ‘1 in 2 children born in Gujarat are born malnourished’! Various newspaper columnists, commentators and economists surely have had a hard time understanding this.  This is something like an ‘opinionated fact’!! What can be even said about this! With internet at your fingertips and mobiles, I wish this trend stops for once in the coming years. Anyone can check composition of army who fought in Kargil War and the malnutrition statistics of various states of India in a few seconds. And that would be a really interesting time!

And now I get it. Solving this jigsaw puzzle, one understands this is what the ‘Square People’ syndrome is that Thomas Friedman talks about in latest New York Times articles.

The aspiring young middle class is growing throughout world and India with a huge population base of 120 crores+ has median age of 26. So, you have at least 2 crores adding up every year with aspirations of making it to Great Indian Middle Class living a decent standard of living.

The ‘Square People’ have started speaking, started to push their priorities to politicians and looks forward to getting things done. We surely have interesting times ahead the world over.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sunday, May 25, 2014 9:41 pm

    Hi Ameya,

    Been a while….how are you and life in general, I see your country in the news for the very good reasons, cant say same about mine, I see the biggest democracy in the world just got a new PM, I say a big congrats and wish you all the very best.
    Great post you have here, glad I stopped by.

    Cheers

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