Strict Election Commission guidelines have had an unintended, but positive, impact on the environment

Election season in the Capital used to include poster-plastered walls, pamphlet-strewn streets, motorcades polluting the air and noise pollution caused by loudspeakers. But not this time. The 2013 Delhi Assembly elections campaign is turning out to be greener and cleaner than before.

The strict Election Commission guidelines on the use of posters, hoardings, banners, loudspeakers, and other promotional materials have had an unintended, but positive, impact on the environment. Though the restrictions have toned down their campaigns, political parties have welcomed the Election Commission’s decision.

Dr. B.C. Sabata of the Delhi Government’s Environment Department says: “There is a visible change [in the election campaign]. Less paper and less noise are definitely good for the environment.”

The model code of conduct, which came into force on October 4, has made political parties change their tried and tested strategies. With traditional display advertising restricted to authorised areas, parties are using public meetings, foot-marches, mass media and social media to reach out to the electorate.

“We are complying with all the new norms and regulations put forth by the Election Commission with regard to making the elections more environmentally sensitive and we welcome them,” says BJP spokesperson Aman Sinha.

Congress MLA and candidate from Nangloi Bijender Singh says though “there are a lot of restrictions this time”, the changes are turning out to be a “good thing”. He says: “There used to be a lot of wastage. We would put up hoardings everyday and everyday they would get torn.”  He adds this has led to a “great saving” for the parties.

Mr. Sinha adds: “We are trying to keep it [campaign] modest. Candidates have realised that one-to-one contact is more helpful in getting votes and that bigger rallies help to build momentum.”

The BJP spokesperson explains his party doesn’t have consolidated data to prove this year’s campaign is greener, but the use of posters is “negligible”. “Banners, posters and hoardings are being used in authorised areas only. We don’t feel that it is something that we are missing out on,” he adds.

A source associated with the campaigns says: “Everyone is becoming smarter this time.” Publicity materials that are allowed are being used judiciously, he adds. Pamphlets or hand-bills have taken over from posters and banners for getting the message across to people. He explains that while parties are distributing a large number of pamphlets during foot-marches, the hand-bills use less paper than the bigger posters did.

Each candidate is allowed one office, down from four or five, leading to lower consumption of electricity and use of loudspeakers. The Election Commission has also cracked down on the number of vehicles used in motorcades or car rallies, reducing fuel consumption.

The BJP’s Mr. Sinha says: “People at every booth, about 10 in number, have been assigned the job of going door-to-door. We are using other tools of campaigning, from small nukkad baithaks (corner meetings) to bigger rallies.”

He adds: “We are also using other mediums of reaching out to our voters and Delhiites through mass media and social media. We have dedicated teams working on the different mediums.”

Faced with tough electoral guidelines, monetary restrictions and the advent of social media, political parties seem to be streamlining their campaigns and, unexpectedly, making the Assembly elections easier on the environment.

More In: Delhi