The ‘white elephant’ of UP

BY MANOJ KEWALRAMANI

Elections are serious business. If democracy is a constant dance, as most headlines remind us, then elections are the signature step of that performance. They are as critical to the health of a democracy, as Salman Khan adjusting his trousers was to the success of Dabangg. And just like when the superstar begins to do that we lose all sense of everything, so is the case with elections.

The gloves are off, and nothing is kosher. Alliances begin to twist and turn within the blink of an eye. Parties defend the indefensible. Yesterday’s untouchables become today’s kingmakers. And promises are made and promises are broken. Meanwhile, journalists and analysts moonlight as soothsayers. On behalf of the electorate, they moan and then they groan. On the days that we are lucky, they shall even bemoan. I know these three words sound the same, but so do those guys on the tube – right up to the end when the hail the wisdom of the electorate.

However, keeping their sense in all this stands one body: the Election Commission of India. It is a hallowed committee of elders that guides us through this awe-inspiring production, with a single-minded purpose of ensuring a free and fair field for all stakeholders. Freedom and fairness, however, are two of the most complex and subjective concepts that ever existed, and their pursuit can lead us from the sublime to the absurd.

And one such decision is of the commission to instruct the UP government to cover all the statues of chief minister Mayawati and her party’s symbol, the elephant, till the state elections are done with. The rationale for this was that these statues would offer an unfair advantage to the BSP during the polls.

In the interest of fairness, the EC, citing the Model Code of Conduct, which comes into play as soon as election dates are announced, decided to hand a deadline for these structures to be covered. The chief election commissioner went on the explain that this was rather standard practice, and that except for Mahatma Gandhi, pictures of all political leaders had to be removed or covered in this case.

Pictures in offices are one thing, but statues that tower over towns and cities are another altogether. I wonder what impact placing a sheet over a structure would have in neutralizing the field. It’s not as though people don’t really know what lies beneath. In fact, I’d argue that having veiled structures across the city would arouse far more attention and curiosity among people. So if the argument was to make them irrelevant to the electoral process, then this move appears to be completely counterproductive.

Moreover, covering up statues of Mayawati are one thing, but the elephant? Is the EC really being serious? Would they even consider blocking elephants all together, i.e., until the elections are done with no elephants can be seen on the streets of UP or they would be viewed as a campaign activity? In similar vein, should we ensure that cycles, images of cycles, lotuses and their images at flower shops also be banned until the polls are done with? And taking it further, should we consider wearing gloves and/or abandoning the wave as a gesture to greet someone till polls are done with, lest it benefit the Congress Party?

All this raises a far more poignant question. Should we now seriously discuss a blanket ban on statues and structures of political leaders who are alive and kicking? Obviously, this ban would only apply to structures in public places. Likewise, should we also consider that no government schemes or infrastructure projects be named after living politicians? All of them, by the logic afforded by the Election Commission would offer unfair gains during elections.

On the flip side, the political response to this decision of the commission has been fairly diverse. At one end, parties such as the CPI and even the JD(U) have hit out at the order’s impracticality. Meanwhile, the BSP has seen it as a blessing in disguise – pun intended – and begun flogging the Dalit pride rhetoric.

However, what’s astounding is that there are parties, such as the SP, RLD and the Congress, which have welcomed it. It depends on what they do with it from here on, but I’d argue lauding such a decision lays bare the ineptness and lack of creativity in their campaigns. The fact that they viewed these structures and instantly saw them as an electoral advantage to Mayawati perhaps offers us a glimpse into their perception of the electorate and what actions they consider as politically beneficial. It’s a thin and rather hypocritical ground to stand on when you criticize someone for wasting public funds for self-glorification and then actually consider it to actually be politically gainful. Once again, it perhaps just shows what their understanding is of the voter and what influences him/her.

On the contrary, it would be far better to use these exact structures as a tool to attack the state government and the BSP leader for her failures. The argument is simple and straightforward. It has been made before, and should be made continually. Corruption, megalomania, misplaced priorities of the BSP and the impact that those are having on the well being of the people of the state.

It would be the perfect setting to stand within the Noida park or at any other location littered with these structures and make an impassioned plea to the voters. What would you rather choose as your future, a government that responds to you or one that is run by a modern-day Ozymandias?

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with The Power Post. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

2 thoughts on “The ‘white elephant’ of UP

  1. Pun Intended but is EC going to put cover on all the hospitals/airports/parks around/across UP which has rajiv/nehru/indra name associated? Isn`t it giving undue advantage to congress for past 65 yrs?

    Are we fucking retards or bunch of morons?

  2. I agree with u 100%. Its ridiculous what the election committee thinks as bias and advantageous. Great article

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