With the Election Commission directing a ban on the use of graffiti, posters and banners under the Tamil Nadu Open Places (Prevention of Disfigurement) Act, long-established practices of campaigning and mobilisation have suffered.
Many voters say they have no idea about who their candidate is. And delimitation of constituencies has not helped the situation. All they know is that they will vote for ‘Rising Sun' or ‘Two Leaves'.
This being the situation, the fate of smaller parties to take the symbols to the voters could be a daunting task, feel political experts. Regardless of parties, wall-writings and posters have been the most important means of announcing one's candidacy.
Cassettes and CDs containing alliterative speeches along with film songs are also most commonly heard during election time.
Speeches of C. N. Annadurai, M. Karunanidhi and film songs of MGR starrers would be blaring on speakers mounted on trees and buildings. This feature of Tamil political culture is evidently missing in the current elections.
Prominent political theorist Partha Chatterjee says the ban on political graffiti is part of “zeal to cleanse and sanitise” the public political arena. “It is a desire to rid the space of citizenship of all the noise, smell and gaudiness of a publicly mobilised plebeian culture that is now being seen as both an impediment to and an embarrassment for an India seeking to be become a world power.”
But the worst affected by the ban are the graffiti writers. M. Ezhil (31) of Vellaripatti in Madurai, who has been involved in drawing political graffiti, says that during elections he used to make Rs.50,000. After the ban and proliferation of vinyl boards, “we have lost a major portion of our income.” This blanket ban could well be taken lightly by resourceful parties, which could adapt to newer conditions or invent new techniques of reaching people, while small parties and Independent candidates may suffer from being denied the use of tried and tested methods to reach the people. “We have not reached a stage as in foreign countries where modern communication methods are used to deliver the message to voters,” said an Independent candidate in Madurai.