The Election Commission's restrictions have made this election more orderly and less disruptive of daily life
There was a time when the political parties and candidates could get away with almost anything during the elections. They could take over your walls without so much as a by-your-leave for writing slogans or pasting posters, bombard you with messages over loudspeakers day in and day out, spoil your sleep by taking the campaign late into the night, and use money and muscle power with impunity.
If all this has changed, it is thanks to the Election Commission and the strict enforcement of the model code of conduct.
Earlier, walls were ‘booked' months before the polls, reserved by the practice of drawing two arrows on either side of the wall and writing the name of the political party in the middle.
These bookings were usually respected and rival parties would keep away from the wall. In rare occasions though, there have been disputes leading to pitched battles over who had the proprietary right to deface the wall.
There have also been occasions when the owner of the wall has got unfortunately tangled in the dispute and been beaten up by party workers.
Even though the takeover of the walls was temporary, the problem did not go away after the elections, as wall owners would find it difficult to fully scrub away the paint.
The forcible takeover of walls is a thing of the past now, thanks to the Election Commission. It is mandatory for parties to take the owner's permission before painting his or her wall.
Nothing used to be sacrosanct for political parties when it came to pasting posters. Window panes, parked vehicles, lamp posts — everything was fair game. Even the sides of stray animals such as cows and goats have are not spared. A popular joke went that parties would paste a poster on a person he stood still for a few minutes.
Code of conduct
Ever since the model code of conduct came into force in Kerala, the Election Department has been deputing squads to remove indiscriminately pasted posters, especially those on property such as walls, buildings and posts.
Noise pollution was another thing that has reduced drastically. The ban on megaphones, which were used to bombard people with election messages, is a major relief. Restrictions on campaigning in the night have allowed people to sleep better.
The use of money and muscle power has also been curbed to a large extent. The Election Department's squads, which include videographers, have made candidates and political parties extremely watchful. But the squads have their work cut out as many ‘incidents' reported from different parts of the State suggest.
The main mandate of the Election Commission is to see that the elections are free and fair. By policing the polls in the manner that it has, the Commission has ensured that they are also a lot more orderly and less disruptive of daily life.