Campaign style in Mysore and Kawasaki

My young friend C K Naveena wonders why candidates need to lavish so much resources on banners and hoardings at election time. “I am sure nobody votes for a person just because they see his cutout and banners in every street corner”, writes Mr Naveena, who edits Mysore Matters, adding, ”political  parties need to realize this simple truth”.

Mysore Matters, a four-page weekly, distributed free, isn’t exactly the type of fiery campaign journalism destined to set Kuranj lake on fire.There is also a website by the same name, but it carries mostly mundane details like tourist spots, bus and train timings, links to local administration offices.

I am taken in by Mr Naveena’s disarming way of putting things, so simply. As he put it, ‘Elections (municipal) would be far better (off) without these buntings and banners’. I don’t know if any other editor would bring himself to make such statement; raise issues that seem so naive and obvious. Newspaper persons, notably editors, with reputation of being know-alls, wouldn’t raise a question such as ‘why this poll extravagence?’ , because of their belief that they know the answers. Editors, like you and I, can’t imagine an election without noisy campaign, traffic-blocking morcha, clutter of wall posters, drum-beats and burst of fire-crackers to herald a contestant’s arrival at the party office or his constituency for the campaign. Snag is with our pre-set notion. Mr Naveena who appears refreshingly free from such notions would not sound so naïve to those who believe there must be another way to run a poll campaign.

There is. In refreshing contrast to the hired cheer group and bandha with which our candidates move about at poll time, I found a contestant in the Kawasaki city council elections in Japan moving about his constituency, all by himself (with no party side-kicks), lugging a mega-phone to address folk at street corners, and a poster-size photo. Presumably, the only person who followed this candidate was a film-maker who captured in his camera the poll campaign, Japan style

His 30-minute documentary – Campaign – was recently telecast by the BBC. The candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party (to which the then P M belonged) for a Kawasaki city council seat is seen moving about on foot at the railway station, fast-food joints and people’s homes, announcing his candidature. “I’m Kazuhiko Yamauchi,” he calls out to people in a bus queue. He works his way through sidewalks, introducing himself to passers-by; and giving a bow and a swift handshake to whoever cares to stop by for him. In most cases people put out their hands to the candidate’s extended hand in sheer reflex action, or merely out of sympathy for the man with a mega-phone and a placard doing all that legwork.          

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