There are many election strategies that have been adopted by many politicians, and political parties. Many have succeeded and others have emulated such strategies. However, strategies keep changing as rivals adopt the same, or respond to the challenge and bring up their own strategies. But, over years, these strategies are becoming ploys, plots and conspiracies. They are now less and less electoral battle strategies. Election Commission as a regulator of elections and political parties, and also as custodian of democratic elections is increasingly falling behind in responding to these moves, often by most respected senior political leaders. Most often the refrain is Election Commission cannot do anything about it. Syndication and ‘coordinated behaviours’ is strictly forbidden, and is enforced by the Competition Commission of India. Not that it is effective. In recent years, cement industry had to face some song because of this. In tenders, any such behaviour is curtailed leading to cancellations of tenders and re-advertisement. But, the Election Commission is way behind in such ‘syndicated behaviour’ which prevents people from having their choices, and exercising their franchises.
this is where probably one needs to look at the legislation which governs Election Commission, political parties and election process. Maybe, amendments need to be brought in after extensive consultation process, mapping of fissiparous election strategies and anti-democratic behaviour and gathering of suggestions to prevent them.
There are many, but I am listing a few here:
1. The earliest strategy was to prevent entire sections of people from voting, It could be by delisting or not listing them at all. Setting up inaccessible booths, making voters to travel long distances, etc.. Ofcourse, most of this involved the connivance of bureaucracy.
2. Preventing the emergence of any leadership in the same party and constituency. This was done variously, either in subtle or most violent forms. Elimination of the rival physically was the extreme step in this form of strategies.
3. Influencing the choice of the rival candidate. There are a few who effectively did this and are doing even now. It did boomerang, though rarely. In one instance, a candidate even financed the rival candidate investment on B-form and campaign, and unfortunately he lost to the same candidate.
4. Supporting a independent candidate, mainly to undercut the main rival candidate, probably to stem enmasse voting from certain areas, or sections (read caste).
5. Influencing the entire unit of the rival political party. This involves years of work and investment. But there are few who are doing this, as I gather.
6. Entering into local alliances, on the sly. To beat a strong candidate, local alliances were developed and nurtured. While such alliances could be at the candidate level, there are many instances where ‘small’ parties with unflinching support in certain areas or sections, do get such favours from big national parties.
7. Alliances between political parties. This happens at the top-most level and more openly. This needs a serious debate, and there has to be some regulation. How do such pre-poll alliances help the voters?
8. Floating a new political party and financing its operations to under-cut rival political party chances is the latest move on the block. Telugu Desam party for long has held that Loksatta and Prajarajyam parties were supported by Y. S. Rajashekhara Reddy to spoil their electoral chances.
9. A winner is included in the party, after the elections. With anti-defection laws this has become redundant. However, the chances of ‘winners’ of small parties of getting included in the ‘mainstream’ parties are still bright, due to loopholes and effective ‘cash’ methods.
10. The latest is floating a political party, just before elections, not contesting the elections, but forming an alliance with another party and campaigning for that party.
There are many such trends, which are intended to confuse, obfuscate and misle voters. Agendas, manifestoes, advertisements, paid news, marketing plans, pre-poll surveys, ‘partisan’ Tv channel discussions and many such strategies continue to play havoc with the thinking of voters. These ploys do influence the ‘literate’ and prevent them from a drawing a line between good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate. Direct benefit schemes such cash-for-vote, liquor, daily wages, transport allowances and other such methods continue to be deployed.
Election Commission is probably responding to election expenditure control, cash-for-vote and a few such methods, but it is way behind in responding to syndicated behaviour. For this, to be controlled and exposed, we need smart election regulation, which is dynamic, pre-emptive and effective. Do we have such legislation and concomitant apparatus?