Leaders savvy and unsavvy, freelance techie gunslingers who do saffron in the morning and socialism by night, the smell of virtual cordite… India is seeing its first online-only elections. What do the Digital War Rooms of parties look like?
On January 8, the Election Commission of India, while announcing a seven-phased voting calendar for the poll-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, made a parallel ruling that changes the complexion of these assembly elections. No physical rallies and roadshows will be allowed till January 15.
The Omicron explosion necessitates it, and we must wait to see whether the pandemic’s graph allows a reversal of the order—for now, all bets are off. This takes away one core trait of Indian elections: its colour.
No autorickshaws with screeching ghettoblasters, no festooned crowds holding up traffic, no netas waltzing door-to-door with fixed smiles in grotty mohallas and no flag-bearing rent-a-crowd rallies. Whether UP (voting in all seven phases, February 10-March 7), Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa (voting on February 14) or Manipur (bringing up the rear on February 27 and March 3) will get to see any flesh-and-blood campaigning remains to be seen.
For all we know, we’ll reach counting day, March 10, without a single sloganeering convoy having disturbed the air anywhere.